Performance of three delignifying pretreatments on hardwoods: hydrolysis yields, comprehensive mass balances, and lignin properties.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1186/s13068-019-1546-0
Background:In this work, three pretreatments under investigation at the DOE Bioenergy Research Centers (BRCs) were subjected to a side-by-side comparison to assess their performance on model bioenergy hardwoods (a eucalyptus and a hybrid poplar). These include co-solvent-enhanced lignocellulosic fractionation (CELF), pretreatment with an ionic liquid using potentially biomass-derived components (cholinium lysinate or [Ch][Lys]), and two-stage Cu-catalyzed alkaline hydrogen peroxide pretreatment (Cu-AHP). For each of the feedstocks, the pretreatments were assessed for their impact on lignin and xylan solubilization and enzymatic hydrolysis yields as a function of enzyme loading. Lignins recovered from the pretreatments were characterized for polysaccharide content, molar mass distributions, β-aryl ether content, and response to depolymerization by thioacidolysis. Results:All three pretreatments resulted in significant solubilization of lignin and xylan, with the CELF pretreatment solubilizing the majority of both biopolymer categories. Enzymatic hydrolysis yields were shown to exhibit a strong, positive correlation with the lignin solubilized for the low enzyme loadings. The pretreatment-derived solubles in the [Ch][Lys]-pretreated biomass were presumed to contribute to inhibition of enzymatic hydrolysis in the eucalyptus as a substantial fraction of the pretreatment liquor was carried forward into hydrolysis for this pretreatment. The pretreatment-solubilized lignins exhibited significant differences in polysaccharide content, molar mass distributions, aromatic monomer yield by thioacidolysis, and β-aryl ether content. Key trends include a substantially higher polysaccharide content in the lignins recovered from the [Ch][Lys] pretreatment and high β-aryl ether contents and aromatic monomer yields from the Cu-AHP pretreatment. For all lignins, the 13C NMR-determined β-aryl ether content was shown to be correlated with the monomer yield with a second-order functionality. Conclusions:Overall, it was demonstrated that the three pretreatments highlighted in this study demonstrated uniquely different functionalities in reducing biomass recalcitrance and achieving higher enzymatic hydrolysis yields for the hybrid poplar while yielding a lignin-rich stream that may be suitable for valorization. Furthermore, modification of lignin during pretreatment, particularly cleavage of β-aryl ether bonds, is shown to be detrimental to subsequent depolymerization.