Biomass Accessibility Analysis Using Electron Tomography

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15 Scopus Citations


Background: Substrate accessibility to catalysts has been a dominant theme in theories of biomass deconstruction. However, current methods of quantifying accessibility do not elucidate mechanisms for increased accessibility due to changes in microstructure following pretreatment. Results: We introduce methods for characterization of surface accessibility based on fine-scale microstructure of the plant cell wall as revealed by 3D electron tomography. These methods comprise a general framework, enabling analysis of image-based cell wall architecture using a flexible model of accessibility. We analyze corn stover cell walls, both native and after undergoing dilute acid pretreatment with and without a steam explosion process, as well as AFEX pretreatment. Conclusion: Image-based measures provide useful information about how much pretreatments are able to increase biomass surface accessibility to a wide range of catalyst sizes. We find a strong dependence on probe size when measuring surface accessibility, with a substantial decrease in biomass surface accessibility to probe sizes above 5-10 nm radius compared to smaller probes.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number212
Number of pages16
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Hinkle et al.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2C00-65701


  • Accessibility
  • Biomass
  • Cellulose
  • Porosimetry
  • Pretreatment
  • Tomography


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