Pretreatment methods for the production of fermentable substrates from Miscanthus, a lignocellulosic biomass, were investigated. Results demonstrated an inverse relationship between lignin content and the efficiency of enzymatic hydrolysis of polysaccharides. High delignification values were obtained by the combination of mechanical, i.e. extrusion or milling, and chemical pretreatment (sodium hydroxide). An optimized process consisted of a one-step extrusion-NaOH pretreatment at moderate temperature (70°C). A mass balance of this process in combination with enzymatic hydrolysis showed the following: pretreatment resulted in 77% delignification, a cellulose yield of more than 95% and 44% hydrolysis of hemicellulose. After enzymatic hydrolysis 69% and 38% of the initial cellulose and hemicellulose fraction, respectively, was converted into glucose, xylose and arabinose. Of the initial biomass, 33% was converted into monosaccharides. Normal growth of Thermotoga elfii on hydrolysate was observed and high amounts of hydrogen were produced.
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