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Processing of materials derived from sweet sorghum for biobased products

Whitfield, Matthew B., Chinn, Mari S., Veal, Matthew W.
Industrial crops and products 2012 v.37 no.1 pp. 362-375
Sorghum bicolor, acetone, bagasse, biobased products, biomass, bioprocessing, butanol, cellulose, combustion, energy, enzymatic hydrolysis, ethanol, ethanol production, feedstocks, fermentation, forage, hydrogen, juices, lactic acid, lignin, lipids, methane, nutrient requirements, proteins, raw sugar, refined sugar, silage, sorghum stalks, sugar beet, sugar crops, sugarcane, sugars, sweet sorghum, waxes, yeasts
Sweet sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench) is particularly suitable as a feedstock for a variety of bioprocesses, largely because of its high yields of both lignocellulosic biomass and fermentable saccharides. Sweet sorghum is less economically important for refined sugar production than other sugar crops, e.g., sugar beet and sugarcane, but can produce more raw fermentable sugar under marginal conditions than those crops. In this review, the agronomic requirements of sorghum (viz., water, soil, and nutrient requirements), cultural practices, and plant morphology are discussed from a bioprocessing perspective. Historically, sugar extraction from the plant in the form of juice has been of primary interest; these methods, along with modern developments are presented. Recently, the direct yeast fermentation of sorghum juice for ethanol production has been studied. Additionally, the bagasse resulting from the juice extraction has been used for a variety of potential products: forage, silage, combustion energy, synthesis gas, and paper. The bagasse contains high levels of relatively low crystallinity cellulose, along with relatively labile lignin, and so is itself of interest as a fermentation feedstock. Whole sorghum stalk, and its bagasse, have been subjected to studies of a wide array of pretreatment, enzymatic hydrolysis, and fermentation processes. The potential fermentation products of sweet sorghum are wide ranging; those demonstrated include ethanol, acetone, butanol, various lipids, lactic acid, hydrogen, and methane. Several potential native products of the plant, in addition to cellulose for paper production, are also identified: waxes, proteins, and allelopathic compounds, such as sorgoleone.