BACKGROUND: Because of its high cost, nitric acid has not been widely employed as the catalyst for hydrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass to obtain fermentable sugars. However, recently more and more research results have reported that nitric acid was more effective than other acids for the hydrolysis of lignocellulose. Therefore, it is necessary to find an optimum condition for nitric acid pretreatment and a means of reducing the cost.
RESULTS: In this work, low concentrations of nitric acid and short reaction times were considered to optimize the pretreatment process. The kinetic parameters of models to predict the concentrations of xylose, glucose, arabinose, acetic acid and furfural in the hydrolysates were obtained. Applying the kinetic models, the optimum conditions were: 150 °C, 0.6% HNO3 and 1 min, which yielded a solution containing up to 22.01 g L−1 xylose, 1.91 g L−1 glucose, 2.90 g L−1 arabinose, 2.42 g L−1 acetic acid and 0.21 g L−1 furfural, which were consistent with the predicted values. The influence of temperature was also studied using the Arrhenius equation.
CONCLUSIONS: A combination of experimental data and model analysis suggested that 96% xylose yield can be achieved by using low concentration nitric acid for a short reaction time, which could greatly reduce the pretreatment cost. Therefore, dilute nitric acid could be considered a good choice for the hydrolysis of corn stover. Copyright © 2010 Society of Chemical Industry