Development and Optimization of a Flocculation Procedure for Improved Solid-Liquid Separation of Digested Biomass

James Lischeske, David Sievers, Caroline Patton

Research output: NRELPoster


One viable treatment method for conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to biofuels begins with saccharification (thermochemical pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis), followed by fermentation or catalytic upgrading to fuels such as ethanol, butanol, or other hydrocarbons. The post-hydrolysis slurry is typically 4-8 percent insoluble solids, predominantly consisting of lignin. Suspended solids are known to inhibit fermentation as well as poison catalysts and obstruct flow in catalyst beds. Thus a solid-liquid separation following enzymatic hydrolysis would be highly favorable for process economics, however the material is not easily separated by filtration or gravimetric methods. Use of a polyacrylamide flocculant to bind the suspended particles in a corn stover hydrolyzate slurry into larger flocs (1-2mm diameter) has been found to be extremely helpful in improving separation. Recent and ongoing research on novel pretreatment methods yields hydrolyzate material with diverse characteristics. Therefore, we need a thorough understanding of rapid and successful flocculation design in order to quickly achieve process design goals. In this study potential indicators of flocculation performance were investigated in order to develop a rapid analysis method for flocculation procedure in the context of a novel hydrolyzate material. Flocculation conditions were optimized on flocculant type and loading, pH, and mixing time. Filtration flux of the hydrolyzate slurry was improved 170-fold using a cationic polyacrylamide flocculant with a dosing of approximately 22 mg flocculant/g insoluble solids at an approximate pH of 3. With cake washing, sugar recovery exceeded 90 percent with asymptotic yield at 15 L wash water/kg insoluble solids.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2015

Publication series

NamePresented at the 2015 Michigan Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference, 3-4 November 2015, Ann Arbor, Michigan

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-5100-65278


  • enzymatic hydrolysis
  • filtration
  • flocculation


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