EPFL researchers develop chemical method to stabilize simple cellulosic sugars

September 18, 2018 |

In Switzerland, EPFL researchers have developed a chemical method that stabilizes simple sugars and prevents them from being degraded. This method could mean that chemists no longer have to balance deconstruction of the plant with avoiding degradation of the product.

The new method changes the chemical susceptibility of the sugars to dehydration and degradation by latching aldehydes onto them. The process is reversible, meaning that that the sugars can be retrieved after deconstruction.

The chemists tried their method on beechwood. First, they turned it into pulp using a paper-making technique called organosolv, which solubilizes wood into acetone or ethanol. But in order to latch aldehydes onto the sugars, the scientists mixed the beechwood with formaldehyde.

With this approach, they were able to recover over 90 percent of xylose sugars as opposed to only 16 percent xylose without formaldehyde. When they broke down the remaining pulp to glucose, the carbohydrate yield was over 70 percent, compared to 28 percent without formaldehyde.

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Category: Research

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