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Evaluation of the two-step treatment with ionic liquids and alkali for enhancing enzymatic hydrolysis of Eucalyptus: chemical and anatomical changes

Li, Han-Yin, Chen, Xue, Wang, Chen-Zhou, Sun, Shao-Ni, Sun, Run-Cang
Biotechnology for biofuels 2016 v.9 no.1 pp. 166
Eucalyptus, alkali treatment, bioethanol, biomass, biotransformation, cell walls, cellulose, chemical composition, crystal structure, endo-1,4-beta-glucanase, enzymatic hydrolysis, fractionation, glucose, hemicellulose, ionic liquids, lignin, lignocellulose, saccharification
BACKGROUND: The biomass recalcitrance resulting from its chemical compositions and physical structures impedes the conversion of biomass into fermentable sugars. Pretreatment is a necessary procedure to increase the cellulase accessibility for bioconversion of lignocelluloses into bioethanol. Alternatively, ionic liquids, a series of promising solvents, provide unique opportunities for pretreating a wide range of lignocellulosic materials. In this study, a two-step treatment including ionic liquids pretreatment and successive alkali fractionations was performed on Eucalyptus to achieve a high enzymatic digestibility. The compositional and structural changes of Eucalyptus cell walls and their possible effect on saccharification ratio were comprehensively investigated. RESULTS: After the ionic liquids pretreatment, the cell walls became loose and even swelled, accompanying with the decrease of cellulose crystallinity. As compared to the simplex ionic liquids pretreatment, the integrated process resulted in the significant removal of hemicelluloses and lignin, enhancing the disruption of the cell walls and increasing the exposure of cellulose, which led to a higher conversion of cellulose to glucose. The glucose yield of Eucalyptus underwent the combination of [Bmim]OAc and alkali treatments reached the maximum (90.53 %), which was 6.6 times higher than that of the untreated Eucalyptus. The combination of chemical compositions and physical structure of Eucalyptus affected the efficiency of cellulose enzymatic hydrolysis. Especially, the changes of cellulose crystallinity played a major role in enhancing the enzymatic digestibility of Eucalyptus in this study. CONCLUSIONS: The two-step treatment with ionic liquids pretreatment and successive alkali fractionation can be considered as a promising method to improve the conversion of cellulose to glucose. The detailed information obtained about chemical and anatomical changes was helpful to understand the underlying mechanism of the integrated treatment process acting on Eucalyptus for enhancing enzymatic digestibility.