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Keywords:

  • cellulase;
  • ionic liquids;
  • enzymatic hydrolysis;
  • pretreatment;
  • lignocellulosic biomass;
  • cellulose

Abstract

Ionic liquids (ILs) have been increasingly recognized as novel solvents for dissolution and pretreatment of cellulose. However, cellulases are inactivated in the presence of ILs, even when present at low concentrations. To more fully exploit the benefits of ILs it is critical to develop a compatible IL-cellulases system in which the IL is able to effectively solubilize and activate the lignocellulosic biomass, and the cellulases possess high stability and activity. In this study, we investigated the stability and activity of a commercially available cellulases mixture in the presence of different concentrations of 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium acetate ([Emim][OAc]). A mixture of cellulases and β-glucosidase (Celluclast1.5L, from Trichoderma reesei, and Novozyme188, from Aspergillus niger, respectively) retained 77% and 65% of its original activity after being pre-incubated in 15% and 20% (w/v) IL solutions, respectively, at 50°C for 3 h. The cellulases mixture also retained high activity in 15% [Emim][OAc] to hydrolyze Avicel, a model substrate for cellulose analysis, with conversion efficiency of approximately 91%. Notably, the presence of different amounts of yellow poplar lignin did not interfere significantly with the enzymatic hydrolysis of Avicel. Using this IL-cellulase system (15% [Emim][OAc]), the saccharification of yellow poplar biomass was also significantly improved (33%) compared to the untreated control (3%) during the first hour of enzymatic hydrolysis. Together, these findings provide compelling evidence that [Emim][OAc] was compatible with the cellulase mixture, and this compatible IL-cellulases system is promising for efficient activation and hydrolysis of native biomass to produce biofuels and co-products from the individual biomass components. Bioeng. 2011; 108:1042–1048. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.