APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY:
- Precipitating and extracting cellulose dissolved in ionic liquids to produce lignocellulosic biofuels
- Recycling ionic liquids
- Fractionating biomass into streams suitable for up-conversion and lignin by-products for recycle
- Supports the use of recyclable ionic liquids for biomass pretreatment
- Recycled ionic liquid can be directly reused for pretreatment without further purification and concentration
The pulp and paper, petrochemical, and developing biorefinery industries currently rely on labor-intensive thermochemical pretreatment processes to extract sugars from biomass, a critical first step in biofuels production. However, the biofuels industry needs an efficient yet affordable method to extract fermentable sugars from cellulose if it is to compete with petroleum-based fuels.
Researchers at Berkeley Lab have developed an ionic liquid pretreatment method that precipitates and extracts dissolved cellulose without the labor and costs associated with conventional pretreatment methods. Unlike previous techniques, the Berkeley Lab method uses long alkyl chain alcohols such as octanol or hexanol as anti-solvents instead of water to wash the biomass prior to enzymatic digestion. While water is miscible with ionic liquids, which hampers the recycling and reuse of both ionic liquids and anti-solvents, the phase separation between long chain alcohols and ionic liquids enables the efficient separation of both ionic liquids and alcohol.
The Berkeley Lab method will also provide industry with additional profit streams through the recovery and reuse of ionic liquids to make more ionic liquids, and the recovery of lignin by-products so that they can be upgraded to valuable products.
DEVELOPMENT STAGE: This is an early stage technology proven effective at the bench scale. Berkeley Lab is actively seeking partners to develop this technology for scale-up and transfer to the marketplace.
STATUS: Patent pending. Available for licensing or collaborative research.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Sathitsuksanoh, N., Sawant, M., Truong, Q., Tan, J., Canlas, C., Sun, N., Zhang, W., Renneckar, S., Prasomsri, T., Shi, J., Cetinkol, O., Singh, S., Simmons, B., George, A. “How alkyl chain length of alcohols affects lignin fractionation and ionic liquid recycle during lignocellulose pretreatment,” Bioenergy Research, July 15, 2015.
REFERENCE NUMBER: 2013-105