Liquid hot (LHW) water pretreatment (LHW) of lignocellulosic material enhances enzymatic conversion of cellulose to glucose by solubilizing hemicellulose fraction of the biomass, while leaving the cellulose more reactive and accessible to cellulase enzymes. Within the range of pretreatment conditions tested in this study, the optimized LHW pretreatment conditions for a 15% (wt/vol) slurry of hybrid poplar were found to be 200oC, 10 min, which resulted in the highest fermentable sugar yield with minimal formation of sugar decomposition products during the pretreatment. The LHW pretreatment solubilized 62% of hemicellulose as soluble oligomers. Hot-washing of the pretreated poplar slurry increased the efficiency of hydrolysis by doubling the yield of glucose for a given enzyme dose. The 15% (wt/vol) slurry of hybrid poplar, pretreated at the optimal conditions and hot-washed, resulted in 54% glucose yield by 15 FPU cellulase per gram glucan after 120 h. The hydrolysate contained 56 g/L glucose and 12 g/L xylose. The effect of cellulase loading on the enzymatic digestibility of the pretreated poplar is also reported. Total monomeric sugar yield (glucose and xylose) reached 67% after 72 h of hydrolysis when 40 FPU cellulase per gram glucan were used. An overall mass balance of the poplar-to-ethanol process was established based on the experimentally determined composition and hydrolysis efficiencies of the liquid hot water pretreated poplar. © 2009 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 2009
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