Enzymatic digestion of alkaline-sulfite pretreated sugar cane bagasse and its correlation with the chemical and structural changes occurring during the pretreatment step



Sugar cane bagasse is recalcitrant to enzymatic digestion, which hinders the efficient conversion of its polysaccharides into fermentable sugars. Alkaline-sulfite pretreatment was used to overcome the sugar cane bagasse recalcitrance. Chemical and structural changes that occurred during the pretreatment were correlated with the efficiency of the enzymatic digestion of the polysaccharides. The first 30 min of pretreatment, which removed approximately half of the initial lignin and 30% of hemicellulose seemed responsible for a significant enhancement of the cellulose conversion level, which reached 64%. After the first 30 min of pretreatment, delignification increased slightly, and hemicellulose removal was not enhanced; however, acid groups continued to be introduced into the residual lignin. Water retention values were 145% to the untreated bagasse and 210% to the bagasse pretreated for 120 min and fiber widths increased from 10.4 to 30 μm, respectively. These changes were responsible for an additional increase in the efficiency of enzymatic hydrolysis of the cellulose, which reached 92% with the 120 min pretreated sample. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 29:890–895, 2013