Researchers invent new one-step process for extracting sugars from biomass

September 9, 2017 |

In Delaware, University of Delaware researchers invented a more efficient, and less costly, process for extracting sugars from wood chips, corn cobs and other organic waste from forests and farms. Their new process requires only one step to separate out the sugars from the lignin, instead of the usual two-step process that uses harsh chemicals and reaction conditions and expensive enzymes.

UD’s one-step technology integrates the pretreatment step and the hydrolysis of cellulose and hemicellulose in one pot and operates at considerably low temperature (85°C) and short reaction time (one hour), which makes the method energy efficient. It’s water efficient, too. The key to the technology is the use of a concentrated solution of an inorganic salt in the presence of a small amount of mineral acid. The concentrated salt solution requires a minimal amount of water. The solution swells the particles of wood or other biomass, allowing the solution to interact with the fibers, much like a newspaper swells when water spills on it. The unique properties of the salt solution make the method very efficient, with up to a 95 percent theoretical yield of sugars.

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Category: Research

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