Improving pre-treatments for better biomass conversion

biomass conversionHOT’ article – improving biomass

Cost-effective utilization of lignocellulosic biomass (e.g., corn stover, switchgrass) for production of fuels and chemicals is critical to the development of a bio-based economy. However, current thermochemical pretreatments are expensive and inefficient due to the recalcitrance of lignocellulosic biomass towards its deconstruction to reactive biofuels or biochemical precursors.

Examining the nano-scale architecture of pretreated lignocellulosic cell walls in tandem with chemical, biochemical and genetic characterization would provide insight into mechanisms that contribute to cell wall recalcitrance.

In this work, ammonia (i.e., Ammonia Fiber Expansion or AFEX) pretreated cell walls are examined using several imaging and characterization techniques to develop multi-dimensional architectural models. These models provide insight into the subtle physicochemical modifications that take place within plant cell walls during low-severity pretreatments and ultimately influence their enzymatic digestibility.

Multi-scale visualization and characterization of lignocellulosic plant cell wall deconstruction during thermochemical pretreatment
Shishir P. S. Chundawat, Bryon S. Donohoe, Leonardo da Costa Sousa, Thomas Elder, Umesh P. Agarwal, Fachuang Lu, John Ralph, Michael E. Himmel, Venkatesh Balan and Bruce E. Dale
Energy Environ. Sci., 2011, DOI: 10.1039/C0EE00574F

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