BACKGROUND: Crop residues as wheat straw are potential sources for fuel-ethanol production as an alternative to current production based on starch- or sugar-containing feedstocks. In this work, the effect of liquid hot water (LHW) process parameters, i.e. temperature (170 and 200 °C), residence time (0 and 40 min), solid concentration (5% and 10% (w/v)) and overpressure applied in the reactor (30 bar and no overpressure), on pretreatment of wheat straw was studied using a full factorial experimental design. Pretreatment effectiveness was evaluated based on the composition of the solid and liquid fractions obtained after filtration of pretreated material, and the susceptibility of the solid fraction to enzymatic hydrolysis (EH) using commercial cellulases.
RESULTS: Statistical analysis showed that only temperature and time, within the limits of the experimental range, have a significant effect on the responses studied. While the effect of pretreatment time in hemicellulose-derived sugar recovery in prehydrolyzate depends on temperature, EH yield was enhanced as both temperature and time were increased. Maximum EH yield was 96 g glucose per 100 g potential glucose in pretreated residue. Xylan and acetyl groups content remaining in solid residue after pretretament, which were found to be directly correlated, had a marked effect on pretreated substrate degradability.
CONCLUSIONS: LHW is an effective pretreatment to enhance the potential of wheat straw as substrate for ethanol production. Maximum hemicellulose-derived sugar recovery (53% of content in raw material) and EH yield (96% of theoretical) fall within different temperature and time intervals, suggesting separate optimization designs for these responses. Copyright © 2007 Society of Chemical Industry