Kinetics Modeling for Design of Continuous Enzymatic Hydrolysis

James Lischeske, David Sievers, James McMillan, Jonathan Stickel

Research output: NRELPoster


Enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulose to monomeric sugars continues to be a limiting step in cost-effectively producing sugar and fermentation-based biofuels from biomass. In particular, the high cost of enzymes coupled with the long time-scale of reaction pose challenges to economic viability. Performing enzymatic hydrolysis in a continuous mode with enzyme recycle may provide a path towards substantially reduced costs for sugar production, but design and analysis are complicated by a lack of suitable kinetics models. Computationally attainable models, such as fractal-based models, require knowledge of the reaction-history of the biomass, and are thus only suitable for describing the batch reactions from which they are derived. Fundamental models, while potentially more generalizable, are often too computationally intensive to use in process or reactor modeling. In this work, a phenomenological rate model is proposed based on a two-phase substrate representation. Good agreement is seen between batch and continuous enzymatic hydrolysis (CEH) experiment data, which validates the model and enables us to solve for reactor design parameters, such as CEH reactor size and stream flow rates, based on process variables like yield. This model is integrated with techno-economic analysis software to explore economic sensitivities. Important design optimizations and tradeoffs are identified and quantified, including the relative cost imposed by rate slowdown from sugar inhibition versus the cost to remove and concentrate sugars at a lower concentration. It also identifies, high-leverage avenues for further exploration, such as increasing the maximum feasible solids concentration, and sustaining high membrane flux and reliability.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NamePresented at the Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals, 27 April - 2 May 2019, Seattle, Washington

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-5100-73788


  • BCPL
  • biofuels
  • cellulose
  • enzymatic hydrolysis
  • fermentation-based biofuels
  • monomeric sugars


Dive into the research topics of 'Kinetics Modeling for Design of Continuous Enzymatic Hydrolysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this