To date, when making biofuel from non-food source biomass (for example corn stover – maize leaves and stalks), the hemicellulose and cellulose need to be separated before processing because of their different chemical and physical properties.
Now, US scientists have reported a system that allows them to be processed together; only a single reactor is required and no pre-treatment is needed (pre-treatment and extraction/separation steps can account for up to 30% of the capital cost of a biofuel plant, they say). The breakdown product of both materials, gamma-valerolactone, is also used as the solvent, which means that there is no need for solvent separation at the end of the process.
Read this HOT EES Communication in full today:
Integrated conversion of hemicellulose and cellulose from lignocellulosic biomass
David Martin Alonso, Stephanie Wettstein, Max Mellmer, Elif Gurbuz and James Dumesic