Pretreatment and Fermentation of Sugarcane Trash to Carboxylic Acids
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The rising price of oil is hurting consumers all over the world. There is growing interest in producing biofuels from non-food crops, such as sugarcane trash. Lignocellulosic biomass (e.g., sugarcane trash) is an abundant, inexpensive, and renewable resource. The patented MixAlco process is a cost-effective solution, which does not require sterility or the addition of expensive enzymes to convert lignocellulosic biomass to transportation fuels and valuable chemicals. In this study, the MixAlco process was used to convert sugarcane trash to carboxylic acids under thermophilic conditions. Lime-treated sugarcane trash (80%) and chicken manure (20%) was used as the feedstock in rotary 1-L fermentors. Ammonium bicarbonate buffer was used to mitigate the effects of product (carboxylic acid) inhibition. Marine inoculum was used because of the high adaptability of the mixed culture of microorganisms present. Iodoform solution was added to inhibit methanogenesis. Preliminary batch studies over a 20-day period produced 19.7 g/L of carboxylic acids. Sugarcane trash had the highest average yield (0.31 g total acid/g VS fed) and highest average conversion (0.70 g VS digested/g VS fed) among the three substrates compared. Countercurrent fermentations were performed at various volatile solid loading rates (VSLR) and liquid residence times (LRT). The highest acid productivity of 1.40 g/(L?d) was at a total acid concentration of 29.9 g/L. The highest conversion and yield were 0.64 g VS digested/g VS fed and 0.36 g total acid/g VS fed, respectively. The continuum particle distribution model (CPDM) was used to predict acid concentration at various VSLR and LRT. The average error in between the predicted and experimental acid concentration and conversion were 4.62% and 1.42%, respectively. The effectiveness of several pretreatment methods was evaluated using the CPDM method. The best-performing method was short-term, no-wash, oxidative lime pretreatment with ball milling. At an industrial-scale solids loading of 300 g VS/L liquid, the CPDM ?map? predicts a total acid concentration of 64.0 g/L at LRT of 30 days, VSLR of 7 g/(L?d), and conversion of 57%. Also high conversion of 76% and high acid concentration of 52 g/L are achieved at a VSLR of 4 g/(L?d) and LRT of 30 days.