UBC Faculty Research and Publications

A biorefinery scheme to fractionate bamboo into high-grade dissolving pulp and ethanol Yuan, Zhaoyang; Wen, Yangbing; Kapu, Nuwan S; Beatson, Rodger; Mark Martinez, D.


Background: Bamboo is a highly abundant source of biomass which is underutilized despite having a chemical composition and fiber structure similar as wood. The main challenge for the industrial processing of bamboo is the high level of silica, which forms water-insoluble precipitates negetively affecting the process systems. A cost-competitive and eco-friendly scheme for the production of high-purity dissolving grade pulp from bamboo not only requires a process for silica removal, but also needs to fully utilize all of the materials dissolved in the process which includes lignin, and cellulosic and hemicellulosic sugars as well as the silica. Many investigations have been carried out to resolve the silica issue, but none of them has led to a commercial process. In this work, alkaline pretreatment of bamboo was conducted to extract silica prior to pulping process. The silica-free substrate was used to produce high-grade dissolving pulp. The dissolved silica, lignin, hemicellulosic sugars, and degraded cellulose in the spent liquors obtained from alkaline pretreatment and pulping process were recovered for providing high-value bio-based chemicals and fuel. Results An integrated process which combines dissolving pulp production with the recovery of excellent sustainable biofuel and biochemical feedstocks is presented in this work. Pretreatment at 95 °C with 12% NaOH charge for 150 min extracted all the silica and about 30% of the hemicellulose from bamboo. After kraft pulping, xylanase treatment and cold caustic extraction, pulp with hemicellulose content of about 3.5% was obtained. This pulp, after bleaching, provided a cellulose acetate grade dissolving pulp with α-cellulose content higher than 97% and hemicellulose content less than 2%. The amount of silica and lignin that could be recovered from the process corresponded to 95 and 77.86% of the two components in the original chips, respectively. Enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation of the concentrated and detoxified sugar mixture liquor showed that an ethanol recovery of 0.46 g/g sugar was achieved with 93.2% of hydrolyzed sugars being consumed. A mass balance of the overall process showed that 76.59 g of solids was recovered from 100 g (o.d.) of green bamboo. Conclusions The present work proposes an integrated biorefinery process that contains alkaline pre-extraction, kraft pulping, enzyme treatment and cold caustic extraction for the production of high-grade dissolving pulp and recovery of silica, lignin, and hemicellulose from bamboo. This process could alleviate the silica-associated challenges and provide feedstocks for bio-based products, thereby allowing the improvement and expansion of bamboo utilization in industrial processes.

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