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Keywords:

  • cellulose crystallinity;
  • delignification;
  • enzymatic digestibility;
  • ionic liquid;
  • lignocellulose

Abstract

Lignocellulose represents a key sustainable source of biomass for transformation into biofuels and bio-based products. Unfortunately, lignocellulosic biomass is highly recalcitrant to biotransformation, both microbial and enzymatic, which limits its use and prevents economically viable conversion into value-added products. As a result, effective pretreatment strategies are necessary, which invariably involves high energy processing or results in the degradation of key components of lignocellulose. In this work, the ionic liquid, 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium acetate ([Emim][CH3COO]), was used as a pretreatment solvent to extract lignin from wood flour. The cellulose in the pretreated wood flour becomes far less crystalline without undergoing solubilization. When 40% of the lignin was removed, the cellulose crystallinity index dropped below 45, resulting in >90% of the cellulose in wood flour to be hydrolyzed by Trichoderma viride cellulase. [Emim] [CH3COO] was easily reused, thereby resulting in a highly concentrated solution of chemically unmodified lignin, which may serve as a valuable source of a polyaromatic material as a value-added product. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2009;102: 1368–1376. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.