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Keywords:

  • lignocellulosic;
  • pretreatment;
  • biphasic;
  • supercritical CO2;
  • high-solids;
  • enzymatic hydrolysis;
  • biofuels

Abstract

Most biomass pretreatment processes for monosaccharide production are run at low-solid concentration (<10 wt%) and use significant amounts of chemical catalysts. Biphasic CO2–H2O mixtures could provide a more sustainable pretreatment medium while using high-solid contents. Using a stirred reactor for high solids (40 wt%, biomass water mixture) biphasic CO2–H2O pretreatment of lignocellulosic biomass allowed us to explore the effects of particle size and mixing on mixed hardwood and switchgrass pretreatment. Subsequently, a two-temperature stage pretreatment was introduced. After optimization, a short high-temperature stage at 210°C (16 min for hardwood and 1 min for switchgrass) was followed by a long low-temperature stage at 160°C for 60 min. Glucan to glucose conversion yields of 83% for hardwood and 80% for switchgrass were obtained. Total molar sugar yields of 65% and 55% were obtained for wood and switchgrass, respectively, which consisted of a 10% points improvement over those obtained during our previous study despite a 10-fold increase in particle size. These yields are similar to those obtained with other major pretreatment technologies for wood and within 10% of major technologies for switchgrass despite the absence of chemical catalysts, the use of large particles (0.95 cm) and high solid contents (40 wt%). Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2012; 109:1499–1507. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.