Continuous Enzymatic Hydrolysis of Lignocellulosic Biomass in a Membrane-Reactor System

Jonathan J. Stickel, Birendra Adhikari, David A. Sievers, John Pellegrino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus Citations


Converting abundant lignocellulosic biomass to sugars as fungible precursors to fuels and chemicals has the potential to diversify the supply chain for those products, but further process improvements are needed to achieve economic viability. In the current work, process intensification of the key enzymatic hydrolysis unit operation is demonstrated by means of a membrane reactor system that was operated continuously. Lignocellulosic biomass (pretreated corn stover) and buffered enzyme solution were fed to a continuously stirred-tank reactor, and clarified sugar solution was withdrawn via a commercial tubular ultrafiltration membrane. The membrane permeance decline and membrane cleaning efficacy were studied and did not vary significantly when increasing fraction insoluble solids (FIS) from 2.5% to 5%. Continuous enzymatic hydrolysis was successfully operated for more than 80 h. A model for the reactor system was able to predict dynamic behavior that was in reasonable agreement with experimental results. The modeled technical performance of anticipated commercial batch and continuous enzymatic hydrolysis processes were compared and showed that continuous operation would provide at least twice the volumetric productivity for the conditions studied. Further improvements are anticipated by better membrane selection and by increasing FIS.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2181-2190
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Society of Chemical Industry

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-70067


  • biomass
  • enzymes
  • membranes
  • process intensification
  • reactor design


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