Monday, April 30, 2007

Enhancing the hydrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass through the use of ionic liquids

Nicole Labbe1, Douglas G. Hayes2, Joseph Bozell1, and Lindsey Kline2. (1) Forestry, Wildlife &Fisheries, University of Tennessee, 2506 Jacob Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996-4570, (2) Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, University of Tennessee, 2506 E. J. Chapman Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996-4531

In this work, a new family of solvent, called “designer solvent” is tested in order to enhance the enzymatic hydrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass. Enzymatic hydrolysis is being more and more considered as a promising technology for the conversion of lignocellulosic materials into fuels and chemicals. However, the production of sugars from lignocellulosic biomass is not cost competitive because of the difficulty associated with hydrolyzing the cellulose fraction into glucose. To be fully efficient, the chosen technology must be associated with a pretreatment method which will alter the structure of the lignocellulosic biomass to make cellulose more accessible to the enzymes to convert the carbohydrate polymers into fermentable sugars. In this work, ionic liquids are tested as a new way to convert cellulosic biomass into sugars. The successful ionic liquid will have two major roles. It will first dissolve partially the biomass, increasing the accessibility of cellulose to the enzymes and it will also be a media for the enzymatic hydrolysis. The results of the hydrolysis obtained with different ionic liquids will reported.