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Functional relationship of furfural yields and the hemicellulose-derived sugars in the hydrolysates from corncob by microwave-assisted hydrothermal pretreatment

Li, Huiling, Chen, Xiaofeng, Ren, Junli, Deng, Hao, Peng, Feng, Sun, Runcang
Biotechnology for biofuels 2015 v.8 no.1 pp. 127
biofuels, biomass, catalysts, cellulose, corn cobs, depolymerization, equipment, feedstocks, furfural, hemicellulose, hydrolysates, manufacturing, microwave treatment, montmorillonite, oligosaccharides, raw materials, xylose
BACKGROUND: Corncob as one of the most suitable feedstock for the production of a variety of high-value-added chemicals is receiving increasing attention worldwide because of the characteristics of high carbohydrate (cellulose and hemicelluloses) contents and high energy densities. Furfural produced from hemicelluloses is a highly versatile and key feedstock used in the manufacture of a wide range of biofuel and important chemicals in different fields. Achieving high furfural yields from corncob combining green approaches and efficient equipment has the promising potential for biomass-to-biofuel technologies. To understand the dissolving mechanism of corncob sugars and reveal the relationship between the hydrolysate composition and furfural yields, a two-step approach was proposed using microwave-assisted hydrothermal pretreatment and subsequently heterogeneous catalytic process. RESULTS: Released hemicelluloses in the first stage were mainly in forms of monosaccharide, oligosaccharides, and water-soluble polysaccharide. Hydrolysates with the maximum xylose content (99.94 mg g⁻¹, 160 °C, 90 min), the maximum xylobiose content (20.89 mg g⁻¹, 180 °C, 15 min), and the maximum total xylose content in monosaccharide and oligosaccharides (DP ≤ 6) (272.06 mg g⁻¹, 160 °C, 60 min) were further converted to furfural using tin-loaded montmorillonite as the catalyst in a biphasic system. The highest furfural yield (57.80 %) was obtained at 190 °C for 10 min from hydrolysates with the maximum xylose content. Moreover, controlled experiments showed that furfural yields from corncob hydrolysates were higher than those from the pure xylose solutions, and lower initial xylose concentration may be in favor of the furfural production. CONCLUSIONS: This work provides an efficient approach to produce furfural by a two-step process for the biomass-to-biofuel industry. Results indicated that the production of furfural from biomass raw materials can be controlled by the depolymerization degree of hemicelluloses.