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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

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Record number 502376
Title Biorefinery of leafy biomass using green tea residue as a model material
Author(s) Zhang, C.
Source University. Promotor(en): Johan Sanders, co-promotor(en): Marieke Bruins. - Wageningen : Wageningen University - ISBN 9789462576902 - 156 p.
Department(s) Biobased Chemistry and Technology
Publication type Dissertation, internally prepared
Publication year 2016
Keyword(s) biorefinery - biomass conversion - leaves - biomass - green tea - tea - alkaline pulping - pectins - lignocellulose - environmental impact - processes - plant protein - food - biobased economy - bioraffinage - biomassaconversie - bladeren - biomassa - groene thee - thee - alkalische pulpbereiding - pectinen - milieueffect - processen - plantaardig eiwit - voedsel
Categories Plant Products


With the rapidly growing world population and improving living standards, food demand is increased with a simultaneous desire for less human impact on the environment, such that “Twice the food production at half the ecological footprint” could be the EU goal for 2050. In fact, a boost in food demand is mainly required in developing countries, where the farmlands are limited and/or they are of poor quality. Rather than improving crop-production yield, developing biorefinery technology with unused biomass, such as leaves, in developing countries may be the key to fulfil the food demand.

Four major components, protein, pectin, lignin, and (hemi-) cellulose, account for more than 70% of the materials in leaves in almost all species. Among these components, protein and pectin can be used in food and animal feed, and they are key components for supplementing food production. However, the production and application of leaf products is limited for four reasons: unstable raw materials, complex components, rigid plant cell walls, and underdeveloped leaf logistics and economics. The limitations cause low pectin and protein yields, and low cost-efficiency in current extraction technologies, including mechanical milling, chemical extraction (acid and alkaline), solvent extraction, and ammonia protein extraction. Development of an integrated process for multiple products might be a good option for leaf biorefinery, but the compatibilities of these processes were unknown.

The aim of this study was to develop new processes and applications that optimally utilize all components, particularly protein, of leafy biomass in the feed and/or food industry using green tea residues as a starting material. The method should also be applicable to other leafy biomass. The research started from the development of alkaline protein extraction technology as presented in Chapter 2. We found that in alkaline protein extraction, temperature, NaOH amount, and extraction time are the parameters determining protein yield, while pH and volume of extraction liquid are critical parameters for production cost. After optimization, more than 90% of leaf protein could be extracted at a cost of 102€/ton protein by single step alkaline extraction. The extracted protein nutritional value was comparable to soybean meal and this technique can be adapted to various leafy biomass. Main drawback of this technique is the overuse of alkali, generation of salts, and the destruction of key amino acids, such as lysine, during the extraction. We tried to overcome its drawbacks by developing integrated process with a recycle for chemicals.

Chapter 3, 4, 5, and 6 refer to the integrated biorefinery. For a better design, we investigated how the alkali aided protein extraction (Chapter 3), and proved that alkaline protein extraction was not facilitated by increased solubility or hydrolysis of protein, but positively correlated to leaf tissue disruption. HG pectin, RGII pectin, polyphenols, and organic acids can be extracted before protein. Protein extraction can then be followed by the extraction of cellulose and hemi-cellulose. RGI pectin and lignin yield were both linearly correlated to protein yield, which indicated that they are likely to be the key limitation to leaf protein extraction. Based on the above findings, an integrated biorefinery that combined protein extraction with a pre-treatment was proposed. In Chapter 4, ethanol, viscozyme, and H2O2 were selected for pre-treatments targeting on the removal of polyphenols and pigments, carbohydrates, and lignin accordingly. Ethanol and viscozyme could extract their targeting components efficiently while H2O2 could bleach GTR with no lignin extracted. The best pre-treatment was the combination of viscozyme and 50% ethanol extraction, which not only reduced the use of alkali by 50%, but also improved protein content and its nutritional value. As pectin can be applied for food or chemicals, enzyme and PBS buffer were investigated for pectin extraction (Chapter 5). Both enzyme and PBS buffer extraction could not only extract high yield HG pectin (predominated by galacturonic acid) with no protein extraction, but also reduced alkali usage in subsequent protein extraction. Pectin obtained using PBS buffer could be present in its native form, which can be precipitated by 40% ethanol. Buffer is suggested to extract pectins when pectins are to be used in food. Otherwise, hydrolyzed pectin that mainly contains galacturonic acid, can be converted to other useful chemicals. For this the enzymatic methods, such as using Viscozyme® L, are recommended.

Alkali usage was further optimized. It was found that by using potassium hydroxide, the protein extraction efficiency was similar to that using sodium hydroxide. The waste water, mainly containing potassium salts, can then be used as fertilizer. This technique is highly depending on the location of factories, which should be built close to the field. Alternatively, calcium hydroxide can be used. As calcium salts can be precipitated by CO2 and calcium hydroxide can be regenerated through burning of the precipitate, this scheme is sustainable and adaptable to most situations. However, as calcium also precipitated pectin, ployphenols, and even proteins, the protein yield is relatively low. Although a pre-treatment can improve extraction efficiency of calcium hydroxide, economic results suggested that a pre-treatment is not necessary unless the products obtained by pre-treatment have an attractive market value.

In Chapter 7, we extend our knowledge on leaf biorefinery with some additional experiments and literature. Simplified models of leaf tissues and cell walls were proposed and used to explain the mechanism of alkaline protein extraction. The models were also used to explain other mechanisms for protein extraction; mechanical milling, steam explosion, acid, and enzyme aided extraction. The possible improvements of leaf biorefinery economics were illustrated either by reducing production cost, by e.g. using counter current extraction or ultrafiltration, or by upgrading product value by applying protein and pectin in food. The processes recommended in this thesis show an excellent prospective, in which they are applicable to other leaf biomass and suitable for small-scale production.

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