APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY:
- Waste biomass conversion (e.g. agricultural residues, wood/paper/pulping, grasses) into biofuels and/or bioproducts
- Less expensive than currently used solvents
- Can be distilled at low temperatures achieving near complete recovery for reuse
- Aids in achieving a high concentration of fermentable sugars while leaving the residual lignin for value-added chemicals
In the past, certain alkanolamines have served as components in ionic liquids (ILs) and deep eutectic solvents (DESs). However, these organic bases have not been adequately explored as a single component for lignin dissolution or biomass pretreatment.
Researchers at Berkeley Lab have developed a unique approach to biomass pretreatment involving the use of alkanolamines for the deconstruction of lignocellulose.
The researchers created a process configuration to maximize both alkanolamine recovery along with pretreatment effectiveness (e.g. sugar yield, lignin removal). Preliminary results showed that the pretreatment of biomass with ethanolamine released >90% sugars, which is ~25% more sugars released than the analogous IL (ethanolaminium acetate) under identical conditions. Additionally, ethanolamine was recovered at a >95% rate using vacuum distillation. These results indicate that the method can enable cost-effective production of fermentable sugars and lignin – a major hurdle for producing commercially viable bioenergy from waste biomass.
Compared to the state-of-the-art IL/DES-based processes, this technology provides numerous advantages. For instance, several key properties (e.g. low to medium boiling point, low viscosity) can be leveraged to enable the use of environmentally benign conditions. This integrated approach for the conversion of biomass to bio-based fuels ultimately develops cheaper solvents for biomass pretreatment, demonstrates effectiveness at pretreatment, and allows for facile recycling and recovery via vacuum distillation.
DEVELOPMENT STAGE: Proven principle
STATUS: Patent pending.
OPPORTUNITIES: Available for licensing or collaborative research.
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