I am from the south of Chile, a forestry region. I grew up surrounded by hills full of green and trees so when I came to Maine I felt very much at home. There are many connections between my original town and Maine: the forest industry, the beauty and the real interest to make the forest a sustainable source of employment, forest products, energy, recreation and wildlife habitat. I am sure this time in Maine will be an invaluable family, social, research and life experience.
The goal of my research is to study the removal of hemicellulose from wood strands, before they are used in producing structural boards. Then the extracted hemicellulose can be used as a raw material for the production of such valuable by-products as biopolymers and chemicals such as acetic acid and ethanol. Monomeric hemicellulose sugars are required as feedstock in the fermentation step to produce ethanol. Therefore I will also investigate the acid hydrolysis of the oligomeric hemicellulose catalyzed by sulfur dioxide (SO2). SO2 is a gas that can be recycled making the ethanol production process more economic.
In Other Words
Wood is composed mainly of cellulose (fibers), lignin (glue) and hemicellulose (sugars). All these are natural polymers made of basic units called monomers which form long chains. I want to study how I can remove/dissolve hemicellulose from wood using high temperature and water, in the same way we make tea with hot water and tea leaves. Once we have these sugars dissolved in the water (the extract) it is possible to use them to make ethanol by fermentation (using bugs). However, before that be possible we have to break down hemicellulose (long chains) into monomers (basic units) by using a particular process with SO2.
5737 Jenness Hall, Room 302
University of Maine
Orono, ME 04469