Microwave assisted acid and alkali pretreatment of Miscanthus biomass for biorefineries

Zongyuan Zhu; Simister, Rachael; Bird, Susannah; McQueen-Mason, Simon J.; Gomez, Leonardo D.; Macquarrie, Duncan J.
October 2015
AIMS Bioengineering;2015, Vol. 2 Issue 4, p449
Academic Journal
Miscanthus is a major bioenergy crop in Europe and a potential feedstock for second generation biofuels. Thermochemical pretreatment is a significant step in the process of converting lignocellulosic biomass into fermentable sugars. In this work, microwave energy was applied to facilitate NaOH and H2SO4 pretreatments of Miscanthus. This was carried out at 180 °C in a monomode microwave cavity at 300 W. Our results show that H2SO4 pretreatment contributes to the breakdown of hemicelluloses and cellulose, leading to a high glucose yield. The maximum sugar yield from available carbohydrates during pretreatment is 75.3% (0.2 M H2SO4 20 Min), and glucose yield is 46.7% under these conditions. NaOH and water pretreatments tend to break down only hemicellulose in preference to cellulose, contributing to high xylose yield. Compared to conventional heating NaOH/H2SO4 pretreatment, 12 times higher sugar yield was obtained by using microwave assisted pretreatment within half the time. NaOH pretreatments lead to a significantly enhanced digestibility of the residue, because the effective removal of lignin and hemicellulose makes cellulose fibres more accessible to cellulases. Morphological study of biomass shows that the tightly packed fibres in the Miscanthus were dismantled and exposed under NaOH condition. We studied sugar degradation under microwave assisted H2SO4 conditions. The results shows that 6-8% biomass was converted into levulinic acid (LA) during pretreatment, showing the possibility of using microwave technology to produce LA from biomass. The outcome of this work shows great potential for using microwave in the thermo-chemical pretreatment for biomass and also selective production of LA from biomass.


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