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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Deconstruction of Woody Biomass via Protic and Aprotic Ionic Liquid Pretreatment for Ethanol Production


Ionic liquids (ILs) have emerged as important solvents for conversion of lignocellulosic feedstocks to fuels and chemicals due to their ability to enable efficient biomass deconstruction and fractionation. Woody biomass derived from forest and agricultural residues has the potential to be used for production of biofuels and its removal from forests can help mitigate disastrous wildfires in fire-prone states like California. This study evaluated woody biomass types (pine, almond, walnut, and fir) from California as potential biofuel feedstocks. The feedstocks were pretreated with the ILs cholinium lysinate ([Ch][Lys]) and ethanolamine acetate ([EOA][OAc]), followed by enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation of lignocellulosic sugars to produce ethanol. Under optimal conditions, [EOA][OAc] pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis generated glucose and xylose yields in the range of 24-82 and 14-80%, respectively, while glucose and xylose yields for the [Ch][Lys] ranged between 28-83 and 23-80%, respectively. Maximum fermentable sugar was released from almond wood, and the lowest amount was from pine and fir. Blends of feedstocks were also explored, and a blend with a mass ratio of 2/2/1 (almond/walnut/pine) resulted in maximum glucose and xylose (>90%) yields using [Ch][Lys]. Fermentation of this hydrolysate using a C5-utilizing strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae resulted in a maximum ethanol concentration of 17.9 g/L for mixture biomass hydrolysate, corresponding to 60.8% fermentation efficiency. This study represents the first demonstration of the use of these ILs for pretreatment of woody biomass blends that resulted in a high overall conversion efficiency for ethanol production.

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