Enhancing Biomass Pretreatment Using Ionic Liquids EIO-2587

- Pretreating biomass to extract sugars for conversion to liquid biofuels

- Increased yield. Cellulose recovery of 95% by mass. Current techniques recover 50-90%. - Reduced time to recover sugars from plant material from 3-4 days for acid-based techniques to 5-12 hours with the JBEI technique. - Significantly lower process temperatures and pressures than hydrothermolysis, dilute-acid, and ammonium explosion techniques, increase energy efficiency and reduce cost. - The solvent can be recycled at 94% efficiency, which further reduces materials costs and environmental impact. The other system inputs are acetone and ethanol, which are non-toxic, readily available, and inexpensive.

Second generation biofuels grown from non-food crops promise a genuinely sustainable, low-carbon alternative to petroleum-based transportation fuels. Produced from woody biomass, agricultural residues and energy crops such as switchgrass and miscanthus, they represent an opportunity to make fuel from previously unusable crops and waste products. The major challenge in the production process is breaking down the plant cellulose and hemicellulose and existing methods lack efficiency and make use of toxic solvents or energy intensive processes.

The process of converting plant biomass into liquid fuel involves a pretreatment step that is required to extract intermediate products. The Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) has developed an innovation in pretreatment of plant biomass for the extraction of cellulose and hemicellulose. It makes use of an ionic liquid as a solvent, a co-solvent such as acetone, and an anti-solvent such as ethanol and/or water. Cellulose and hemicellulose are extracted and subsequently precipitated over a three-hour period with a yield of up to 95%.

The method produces an extracted solution with less viscosity than other ionic liquid pretreatment processes. This allows for the handling of higher concentrations of cellulose, reducing the quantity of ionic liquid required. In addition, the process uses chemicals that are not toxic or harmful to the environment. The ionic liquid used was initially produced to serve as a more environmentally friendly alternative to toxic organic solvents.

- Available for licensing and collaborative research.

Type of Offer: Licensing

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