Inorganic salts give sustainable high yields of sugar
Asingle-step process promises an economical way to produce soluble sugars at high yields from woody biomass, energy crops and agricultural residues, as per the reports from University of Delaware (UD), Newark, Del., and Rutgers University, Piscataway, N.J. The route relies on molten salt hydrates (MSHs). The inorganic-salts-based MSHs are easy to prepare, environmentally friendly, and less expensive than common ionic liquids, say the researchers.
The new process integrates the pre-treatment and the hydrolysis of cellulose and hemicellulose in one pot. Moreover, the process operates at a lower temperature (85°C) and boasts a shorter reaction time (1 h). This results in processing that is more energy and water efficient, claim the researchers.
The key to the technology, for which UD has filed a patent application, is the use of a concentrated solution of an inorganic salt in the presence of a small amount of mineral acid. The solution swells the particles of biomass, enabling it to interact with the fibers.
The unique properties of the salt solution make the process very efficient, with up to a 95% theoretical yield of sugars, explains Basudeb Saha, associate director of research at UD’s Catalyst Center for Energy Innovation.
“Our process enables — for the first time — the economical production of feed streams that could profoundly improve the economics of cellulosic bioproducts manufactured downstream, not to mention the environmental benefits of replacing petroleum,” notes Saha.
Detailed report is available on chemicalprocessing. com.