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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Integration of renewable deep eutectic solvents with engineered biomass to achieve a closed-loop biorefinery

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Despite the enormous potential shown by recent biorefineries, the current bioeconomy still encounters multifaceted challenges. To develop a sustainable biorefinery in the future, multidisciplinary research will be essential to tackle technical difficulties. Herein, we leveraged a known plant genetic engineering approach that results in aldehyde-rich lignin via down-regulation of cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase (CAD) and disruption of monolignol biosynthesis. We also report on renewable deep eutectic solvents (DESs) synthesized from phenolic aldehydes that can be obtained from CAD mutant biomass. The transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana CAD mutant was pretreated with the DESs and showed a twofold increase in the yield of fermentable sugars compared with wild type (WT) upon enzymatic saccharification. Integrated use of low-recalcitrance engineered biomass, characterized by its aldehyde-type lignin subunits, in combination with a DES-based pretreatment, was found to be an effective approach for producing a high yield of sugars typically used for cellulosic biofuels and biobased chemicals. This study demonstrates that integration of renewable DES with plant genetic engineering is a promising strategy in developing a closed-loop process.

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