Inor­ganic salts give sus­tain­able high yields of sugar

Chemical Industry Digest - - New Developments -

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.

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