Acid Hydrolysis of Hemicellulose in Green Liquor Pre-Pulping Extract of Mixed Northern Hardwoods
Forest biomass is a promising resource for future biofuels and bioproducts. Prepulping extraction of hemicellulose by alkaline (Green Liquor) pretreatment produces a neutral-pH extract containing hemicellulose-derived oligomers. A near-term option for use of this extract is to hydrolyze the oligomers to fermentable monomer sugars. Chips of mixed northern hardwoods were cooked in a rocking digester at 160 °C for 110 min in Green Liquor at a concentration of 3% Na2O equivalent salts on dry wood. The mass of wood extracted into the Green Liquor extract was approximately 11.4% of the debarked wood mass, which resulted in a dilute solution of oligomeric hemicelluloses sugars. The concentration of the extract was increased through partial evaporation prior to hydrolysis. Dilute sulfuric acid hydrolysis was applied at conditions ranging from 100 to 160 °C, 2% to 6% (w/v) H2SO4, and 2- to 258-min residence time. The maximum fermentable sugar concentration achieved from evaporated extract was 10.7 g/L, representing 90.7% of the maximum possible yield. Application of the biomass pretreatment severity function to the hydrolysis results proved to offer a relatively poor prediction of temperature and reaction time interaction. The combined severity function, which incorporates reaction time, temperature, and acid concentration, did prove to provide a useful means of trading off the combined effects of these three variables on total sugar yields.