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Alkaline Peroxide Delignification of Corn Stover

Mittal, Ashutosh, Katahira, Rui, Donohoe, Bryon S., Black, Brenna A., Pattathil, Sivakumar, Stringer, Jack M., Beckham, Gregg T.
ACS sustainable chemistry 2017 v.5 no.7 pp. 6310-6321
biomass, cellulose, corn stover, delignification, enzymatic hydrolysis, fractionation, fuels, gel chromatography, glucose, hemicellulose, hydrogen peroxide, image analysis, lignin, lignocellulose, molecular weight, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, pulp, texture, xylose
Selective biomass fractionation into carbohydrates and lignin is a key challenge in the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to fuels and chemicals. In the present study, alkaline hydrogen peroxide (AHP) pretreatment was investigated to fractionate lignin from polysaccharides in corn stover (CS), with a particular emphasis on the fate of the lignin for subsequent valorization. The influence of peroxide loading on delignification during AHP pretreatment was examined over the range of 30–500 mg H₂O₂/g dry CS at 50 °C for 3 h. Mass balances were conducted on the solid and liquid fractions generated after pretreatment for each of the three primary components, lignin, hemicellulose, and cellulose. AHP pretreatment at 250 mg H₂O₂/g dry CS resulted in the pretreated solids with more than 80% delignification consequently enriching the carbohydrate fraction to >90%. Two-dimensional nuclear magnetic resonance (2D-NMR) spectroscopy of the AHP pretreated residue shows that, under high peroxide loadings (>250 mg H₂O₂/g dry CS), most of the side chain structures were oxidized and the aryl-ether bonds in lignin were partially cleaved, resulting in significant delignification of the pretreated residues. Gel permeation chromatography (GPC) analysis shows that AHP pretreatment effectively depolymerizes CS lignin into low molecular weight (LMW) lignin fragments in the aqueous fraction. Imaging of AHP pretreated residues shows a more granular texture and a clear lamellar pattern in secondary walls, indicative of layers of varying lignin removal or relocalization. Enzymatic hydrolysis of this pretreated residue at 20 mg/g of glucan resulted in 90% and 80% yields of glucose and xylose, respectively, after 120 h. Overall, AHP pretreatment is able to selectively remove more than 80% of the lignin from biomass in a form that has potential for downstream valorization processes and enriches the solid pulp into a highly digestible material.