UBC Faculty Research and Publications

A comparison of various lignin-extraction methods to enhance the accessibility and ease of enzymatic hydrolysis of the cellulosic component of steam-pretreated poplar Tian, Dong; Chandra, Richard P; Lee, Jin-Suk; Lu, Canhui; Saddler, Jack N


Background: Current single-stage delignification-pretreatment technologies to overcome lignocellulosic biomass recalcitrance are usually achieved at the expense of compromising the recovery of the polysaccharide components, particularly the hemicellulose fraction. One way to enhance overall sugar recovery is to tailor an efficient two-stage pretreatment that can pre-extract the more labile hemicellulose component before subjecting the cellulose-rich residual material to a second-stage delignification process. Previous work had shown that a mild steam pretreatment could recover >65% of the hemicellulose from poplar while limiting the acid-catalysed condensation of lignin. This potentially allowed for subsequent lignin extraction using various lignin solvents to produce a more accessible cellulosic substrate. Results: A two-stage approach using steam and/or solvent pretreatment was assessed for its ability to separate hemicellulose and lignin from poplar wood chips while providing a cellulose-rich fraction that could be readily hydrolysed by cellulase enzymes. An initial steam-pretreatment stage was performed over a range of temperatures (160–200 °C) using an equivalent severity factor of 3.6. A higher steam temperature of 190 °C applied over a shorter residence time of 10 min effectively solubilized and recovered 75% of the hemicellulose while enhancing the ability of various solvents [deep eutectic solvent (DES), ethanol organosolv, soda/anthraquinone (soda/AQ) or a hydrotrope] to extract lignin in a second stage. When the second-stage treatments were compared, the mild DES treatment (lactic acid and betaine) at 130 °C, removed comparable amounts of lignin with higher selectivity than did the soda/AQ and organosolv pretreatments at 170 °C. However, the cellulose-rich substrates obtained after the second-stage organosolv and soda/AQ pretreatments showed the highest cellulose accessibility, as measured by the Simon’s staining technique. They were also the most susceptible to subsequent enzymatic hydrolysis. Conclusions: The second-stage pretreatments varied in their ability to solubilize and extract the lignin component of steam-pretreated poplar while enhancing the enzymatic hydrolysis of the resulting cellulose-rich residual fractions. Although DES extraction was more selective in extracting lignin from the steam-pretreated substrates, the organosolv and soda/AQ post treatments disrupted the cellulose structure to a greater extent while enhancing the ease of enzymatic hydrolysis. Graphical abstract Effective hemicellulose removal via steam pretreatment followed by subsequent lignin extraction under acidic, alkaline or solvolytic conditions results in a highly accessible, more readily hydrolysed cellulose fraction.

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