New Ionic Liquids Treatment for Converting Biomass to Sugars


Digestion of cellulosic biomass to release fermentable sugars remains a major challenge: current biomass treatment approaches typically involve large volumes of hazardous concentrated acids, expensive secondary enzymatic digestion, and energy intensive heating. Researchers at the DOE Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center have developed an improved chemical treatment method to liberate sugars from biomass. This approach uses a combination of ionic liquids, water, and dilute acid, resulting in the release of over 75% of the sugar molecules locked in corn stover. This approach produces fewer toxic byproducts that inhibit growth of the fermentative microbes used to convert released sugars to ethanol and other biofuels. Although the current experiments were performed at laboratory scale, potential avenues have been identified for scaling the approach for commercial development. The new results are published in the March 9th issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Binder, J. B. and R. T. Raines. 2010. “Fermentable Sugars by Chemical Hydrolysis of Biomass” Proceedings of the Natl. Academy of Sciences 107:4516-4521