Applications of simulated moving bed (SMB) chromatography to biomass chemical processing
Wednesday, April 30, 2014: 10:35 AM
Grand Ballroom F-G, lobby level (Hilton Clearwater Beach)
D. Eugene Rearick and Michael M. Kearney, Amalgamated Research LLC, Twin Falls, ID
Liquid chromatography on a process scale, using simulated moving bed (SMB) technology, has been applied for many years in the sweetener industry to increase the fructose concentration in high fructose syrups and for the recovery of sucrose from sugar beet molasses.  The same general processes for separation of water-soluble components can, in many cases, be applied directly to biomass processing.  Several examples of such applications will be discussed.

The hydrolysis of cellulose with strong acid results in a product solution containing monosaccharides along with residual acid which must be removed before the sugars can be utilized.  Neutralization of this acid would be wasteful but a SMB chromatographic process utilizing the principle of acid retardation on an anion exchange resin can be used to separate a large fraction of the acid and recycle it for further biomass hydrolysis. 

A second example of SMB application is in the purification of the byproduct from biodiesel production.  The transesterification reaction of triglycerides with methanol produces fatty acid methyl esters (biodiesel) along with a separate phase containing glycerol.  Further processing of the glycerol phase yields an aqueous byproduct solution containing glycerol and salts.  Chromatographic separation of this solution on a bed of strong cation exchange resin can be used to separate glycerol from most of the salts.  For example, with the addition of only eluent water, a solution with a glycerol purity of about 85% (85 g glycerol/100 g dissolved material) can be purified to over 98% glycerol purity in a continuous chromatographic process.