Effects of physical and chemical pretreatments on the crystallinity of bagasse



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Biomass conversion technologies are receiving increasing attention due to global climate change and most recently plans from the President of the United States to reduce fossil fuel consumption. The MixAlco process converts a variety of feedstocks, such as agricultural residues, municipal solid waste, and sewage sludge, into mixed alcohols via microbial fermentation, which can then be used as fuel additives or independently as an alternative fuel. Optimizing the pretreatment step of this process is critical to improving product yields. The process uses lime pretreatment, which can be enhanced using new decrystallization pretreatment methods, namely hydrodynamic cavitation and shock tube pretreatment.Previous studies on biomass decrystallization showed an increase in biomass digestibility when hydrodynamic cavitation was utilized as a pretreatment step. This previous work was expanded by studying both acoustic and hydrodynamic cavitation. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) was used to model the cavitator to improve its efficiency. The crystallinity before and after pretreatment was analyzed. A new laboratory-scale MixAlco lime-pretreatment system was developed to produce greater quantities of lime-pretreated biomass that could be subjected to decrystallization experiments. The length of pretreatment, water loading, and bagasse loadings were varied for the shock tube experiments. After each pretreatment, enzymatic hydrolysis was performed, and the equivalent glucose yield was measured by the DNS (dinitrosalicylic acid) assay. Additionally, mixed-acid fermentation was performed to show the benefits of reduced crystallinity on the MixAlco fermentation. The acoustic and hydrodynamic cavitation pretreatments had a modest effect on crystallinity. In contrast, the shock tube pretreatment shows greater promise as an effective decrystallization pretreatment, even for lime-treated bagasse. Repeated shocks had little effect on digestibility and the crystallinity; however, the water temperature used in shock tube pretreatment played an important role in bagasse digestibility and crystallinity.