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Assessment of chemical transformations in eucalyptus, sugarcane bagasse and straw during hydrothermal, dilute acid, and alkaline pretreatments

Carvalho, Danila Morais de, Sevastyanova, Olena, Penna, Lais Souza, Silva, Brunela Pereira da, Lindström, Mikael E., Colodette, Jorge Luiz
Industrial crops and products 2015 v.73 pp. 118-126
Eucalyptus, acid treatment, alkali treatment, biomass production, biotransformation, chemical composition, chemical structure, ethanol, lignin, raw materials, silica, straw, sugarcane, sugarcane bagasse, toluene, uronic acids, xylan
The impact of hydrothermal, dilute acid, and alkaline pretreatments on the chemical structure of eucalyptus, sugarcane bagasse, and straw were compared with a view to their subsequent bioconversion into ethanol. Sugarcane bagasse and straw contain high amounts of extractives (15.0% and 12.2%, respectively), ash (2.3% and 7.9%, respectively), and silica (1.4% and 5.8%, respectively). If not properly corrected, the presence of silica would lead to the overestimation of the lignin, while high amounts of extractives would cause the overestimation of the content of sugars in biomass. Applying a novel approach through the use of complete mass balance, bagasse and straw were proven to contain lower amounts of lignin (18.0 % and 13.9%, respectively) than previously reported for these raw materials, and certainly a much lower amount of lignin than eucalyptus (27.4%). The syringyl to guaiacyl units ratio (S/G) for lignin in bagasse and straw (1.1 and 0.5, respectively) was lower than that for eucalyptus (2.7), indicating a different reactivity during chemical pretreatments. The xylan content in sugarcane bagasse and straw was much higher than that in eucalyptus, with a significantly lower degree of substitution for uronic acids and acetyl groups. The sugarcane straw showed the highest mass loss during the investigated pretreatments, especially under alkaline conditions, with a total biomass yield of only 37.3%. During the hydrothermal and dilute acid treatments, mostly hemicelluloses were removed, followed by the formation a significant amount of pseudo-lignin structures, while the alkaline pretreatment affected the lignin content. With eucalyptus, the formation of structures similar in their behavior to extractives (i.e., soluble in toluene and ethanol, subsequently referred to as “pseudo-extractives”) was observed during all three pretreatments, with 12.4% for hydrothermal, 18.9% for dilute acid, and 8.7% for alkaline pretreatment. This information, combined with actual yields, should be taken into account when assessing the impact of pretreatments on the chemical composition and structure of biomass.