A Two-Phase Substrate Model for Enzymatic Hydrolysis of Lignocellulose: Application to Batch and Continuous Reactors: Article No. 299

James Lischeske, Jonathan Stickel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus Citations


Enzymatic hydrolysis continues to have a significant projected production cost for the biological conversion of biomass to fuels and chemicals, motivating research into improved enzyme and reactor technologies in order to reduce enzyme usage and equipment costs. However, technology development is stymied by a lack of accurate and computationally accessible enzymatic-hydrolysis reaction models. Enzymatic deconstruction of cellulosic materials is an exceedingly complex physico-chemical process. Models which elucidate specific mechanisms of deconstruction are often too computationally intensive to be accessible in process or multi-physics simulations, and empirical models are often too inflexible to be effectively applied outside of their batch contexts. In this paper, we employ a phenomenological modeling approach to represent rate slowdown due to substrate structure (implemented as two substrate phases) and feedback inhibition, and apply the model to a continuous reactor system. A phenomenological model was developed in order to predict glucose and solids concentrations in batch and continuous enzymatic-hydrolysis reactors from which liquor is continuously removed by ultrafiltration. A series of batch experiments were performed, varying initial conditions (solids, enzyme, and sugar concentrations), and best-fit model parameters were determined using constrained nonlinear least-squares methods. The model achieved a good fit for overall sugar yield and insoluble solids concentration, as well as for the reduced rate of sugar production over time. Additionally, without refitting model coefficients, good quantitative agreement was observed between results from continuous enzymatic-hydrolysis experiments and model predictions. Finally, the sensitivity of the model to its parameters is explored and discussed. Although the phenomena represented by the model correspond to behaviors that emerge from clusters of mechanisms, and hence a set of model coefficients are unique to the substrate and the enzyme system, the model is efficient to solve and may be applied to novel reactor schema and implemented in computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations. Hence, this modeling approach finds the right balance between model complexity and computational efficiency. These capabilities have broad application to reactor design, scale-up, and process optimization.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages15
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
StatePublished - 2019

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-74816


  • BCPL
  • continuous enzymatic hydrolysis
  • enzymatic hydrolysis modeling


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