Ionic liquid pre-treatment and fractionation of sugarcane bagasse for the production of bioethanol

Karatzos, Sergios (2011) Ionic liquid pre-treatment and fractionation of sugarcane bagasse for the production of bioethanol. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Pretretament is an essential and expensive processing step for the manufacturing of ethanol from lignocellulosic raw materials. Ionic liquids are a new class of solvents that have the potential to be used as pretreatment agents. The attractive characteristics of ionic liquid pretreatment of lignocellulosics such as thermal stability, dissolution properties, fractionation potential, cellulose decrystallisation capacity and saccharification impact are investigated in this thesis.

Dissolution of bagasse with 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium chloride ([C4mim]Cl) at high temperatures (110 �‹C to 160 �‹C) is investigated as a pretreatment process. Material balances are reported and used along with enzymatic saccharification data to identify optimum pretreatment conditions (150 �‹C for 90 min). At these conditions, the dissolved and reprecipitated material is enriched in cellulose, has a low crystallinity and the cellulose component is efficiently hydrolysed (93 %, 3 h, 15 FPU). At pretreatment temperatures < 150 �‹C, the undissolved material has only slightly lower crystallinity than the starting. At pretreatment temperatures . 150 �‹C, the undissolved material has low crystallinity and when combined with the dissolved material has a saccharification rate and extent similar to completely dissolved material (100 %, 3h, 15 FPU). Complete dissolution is not necessary to maximize saccharification efficiency at temperatures . 150 �‹C.

Fermentation of [C4mim]Cl-pretreated, enzyme-saccharified bagasse to ethanol is successfully conducted (85 % molar glucose-to-ethanol conversion efficiency). As compared to standard dilute acid pretreatment, the optimised [C4mim]Cl pretreatment achieves substantially higher ethanol yields (79 % cf. 52 %) in less than half the processing time (pretreatment, saccharification, fermentation).

Fractionation of bagasse partially dissolved in [C4mim]Cl to a polysaccharide rich and a lignin rich fraction is attempted using aqueous biphasic systems (ABSs) and single phase systems with preferential precipitation. ABSs of ILs and concentrated aqueous inorganic salt solutions are achievable (e.g. [C4mim]Cl with 200 g L-1 NaOH), albeit they exhibit a number of technical problems including phase convergence (which increases with increasing biomass loading) and deprotonation of imidazolium ILs (5 % - 8 % mol). Single phase fractionation systems comprising lignin solvents / cellulose antisolvents, viz. NaOH (2M) and acetone in water (1:1, volume basis), afford solids with, respectively, 40 % mass and 29 % mass less lignin than water precipitated solids. However, this delignification imparts little increase in saccharification rates and extents of these solids.

An alternative single phase fractionation system is achieved simply by using water as an antisolvent. Regulating the water : IL ratio results in a solution that precipitates cellulose and maintains lignin in solution (0.5 water : IL mass ratio) in both [C4mim]Cl and 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium acetate ([C2mim]OAc)). This water based fractionation is applied in three IL pretreatments on bagasse ([C4mim]Cl, 1-ethyl-3-methyl imidazolium chloride ([C2mim]Cl) and [C2mim]OAc).

Lignin removal of 10 %, 50 % and 60 % mass respectively is achieved although only 0.3 %, 1.5 % and 11.7 % is recoverable even after ample water addition (3.5 water : IL mass ratio) and acidification (pH . 1). In addition the recovered lignin fraction contains 70 % mass hemicelluloses. The delignified, cellulose-rich bagasse recovered from these three ILs is exposed to enzyme saccharification. The saccharification (24 h, 15 FPU) of the cellulose mass in starting bagasse, achieved by these pretreatments rank as: [C2mim]OAc (83 %)>>[C2mim]Cl (53 %)=[C4mim]Cl(53%). Mass balance determinations accounted for 97 % of starting bagasse mass for the [C4mim]Cl pretreatment , 81 % for [C2mim]Cl and 79 %for [C2mim]OAc. For all three IL treatments, the remaining bagasse mass (not accounted for by mass balance determinations) is mainly (more than half) lignin that is not recoverable from the liquid fraction. After pretreatment, 100 % mass of both ions of all three ILs were recovered in the liquid fraction.

Compositional characteristics of [C2mim]OAc treated solids such as low lignin, low acetyl group content and preservation of arabinosyl groups are opposite to those of chloride IL treated solids. The former biomass characteristics resemble those imparted by aqueous alkali pretreatment while the latter resemble those of aqueous acid pretreatments. The 100 % mass recovery of cellulose in [C2mim]OAc as opposed to 53 % mass recovery in [C2mim]Cl further demonstrates this since the cellulose glycosidic bonds are protected under alkali conditions. The alkyl chain length decrease in the imidazolium cation of these ILs imparts higher rates of dissolution and losses, and increases the severity of the treatment without changing the chemistry involved.

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ID Code: 55172
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Edye, Leslie & Doherty, William
Keywords: sugarcane, bagasse, lignocellulosics, lignin, cellulose, ionic liquids,, pretreatment, decrystallisation, fractionation, aqueous biphasic systems,, saccharification, ethanol, biofuel
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 28 Nov 2012 02:19
Last Modified: 28 Nov 2012 02:19

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