An improved understanding of how particle size distribution relates to enzymatic hydrolysis performance and rheological properties could enable enhanced biochemical conversion of lignocellulosic feedstocks. Particle size distribution can change as a result of either physical or chemical manipulation of a biomass sample. In this study, we employed image processing techniques to measure slurry particle size distribution and validated the results by showing that they are comparable to those from laser diffraction and sieving. Particle size and chemical changes of biomass slurries were manipulated independently and the resulting yield stress and enzymatic digestibility of slurries with different size distributions were measured. Interestingly, reducing particle size by mechanical means from about 1 mm to 100 μm did not reduce the yield stress of the slurries over a broad range of concentrations or increase the digestibility of the biomass over the range of size reduction studied here. This is in stark contrast to the increase in digestibility and decrease in yield stress when particle size is reduced by dilute-acid pretreatment over similar size ranges. © 2011 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 2011
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