Mechanisms of Biopolymer Solvation: Development of a two-component ionic liquid solvent system
Ionic liquids are of potential interest in the processing of lignocellulosic biomass, and/or its components, for the purpose of producing renewable and value-added biomaterials. An understanding of how solvation can be achieved and the way in which the feedstock biopolymers are affected, however, needs to be gained prior to a viable implementation. In this thesis, the solvation of the wood biopolymers cellulose, xylan and lignin in the ionic liquid (IL) 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium acetate (EMIMAc) in a novel combination with the second system component 1-methylimidazole (MIM) have been investigated:
The solvation of dissolving pulp, beech xylan and LignoBoost lignin model materials, was studied using FBRM (focused beam reflectance measurements) particle characterization in combination with microscopic analysis (cellulose and xylan), determination of molecular weights (xylan and lignin) and 13C- and 31P-NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy) of lignin.
It was concluded that the most efficient solvation of cellulose and xylan occurred using 3-4% and 9% IL (n/n anhydroglucose units and n/n anhydroxylose Units), respectively, while polymer integrity was maintained. Cellulose solvation was found to be greatly dependent on the IL to AGU ratio whereas xylan solvation varied greatly with temperature. Moreover, a theoretical model was developed for the solvation of cellulose in the present system. The solvation of lignin was achieved at ~20% lignin loading (w/w), in any combination of MIM/EMIMAc. Regeneration of lignin resulted in two sets of fractions; one exhibiting a general and higher apparent molecular weight (Mw) along with an enrichment of condensed/aliphatic ether linkages and aliphatic hydroxyls, and the other exhibiting a lower apparent Mw and an enrichment of carboxylic and phenolic groups. The knowledge of biopolymer solvation gained in the present solvent system provides future opportunities of tuning extraction and/or fractionation processes to suite the specifications of a particular biomass-derived product.