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Keywords:

  • steam explosion;
  • severity;
  • lignocellulosic biomass;
  • crystallinity

Lignocellulosic biomass is the most promising feedstock for biofuels production. To enhance the efficiency of enzymatic hydrolysis, lignocellulosics needs to be pretreated to lower their recalcitrance. SO2-catalyzed steam explosion is an efficient and relatively cost-efficient pretreatment method for softwood. This work investigates the effects of steam explosion severity on the digestibility, accessibility, and crystallinity of Loblolly pine. Higher severity was found to increase the accessibility of the feedstock while also promoting nonselective degradation of carbohydrates. The adsorption behavior of Celluclast® enzymes on steam-exploded Loblolly pine (SELP) can be described by a Langmuir isotherm. Cellulose crystallinity was found to first increase and then decrease with increasing pretreatment severity. A linear relationship between initial hydrolysis rates and crystallinity index (CrI) of pretreated Loblolly pine was found; moreover, a strong correlation between X-ray diffraction intensities and initial rates was confirmed. The findings demonstrate the significance of CrI in enzymatic hydrolysis of pretreated lignocellulosic biomass. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 29:909–916, 2013