A Laboratory-Scale Pretreatment and Hydrolysis Assay for Determination of Reactivity in Cellulosic Biomass Feedstocks

Edward J. Wolfrum, Ryan M. Ness, Nicholas J. Nagle, Darren J. Peterson, Christopher J. Scarlata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus Citations

Abstract

Background: The rapid determination of the release of structural sugars from biomass feedstocks is an important enabling technology for the development of cellulosic biofuels. An assay that is used to determine sugar release for large numbers of samples must be robust, rapid, and easy to perform, and must use modest amounts of the samples to be tested.In this work we present a laboratory-scale combined pretreatment and saccharification assay that can be used as a biomass feedstock screening tool. The assay uses a commercially available automated solvent extraction system for pretreatment followed by a small-scale enzymatic hydrolysis step. The assay allows multiple samples to be screened simultaneously, and uses only ∼3 g of biomass per sample. If the composition of the biomass sample is known, the results of the assay can be expressed as reactivity (fraction of structural carbohydrate present in the biomass sample released as monomeric sugars). Results: We first present pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis experiments on a set of representative biomass feedstock samples (corn stover, poplar, sorghum, switchgrass) in order to put the assay in context, and then show the results of the assay applied to approximately 150 different feedstock samples covering 5 different materials. From the compositional analysis data we identify a positive correlation between lignin and structural carbohydrates, and from the reactivity data we identify a negative correlation between both carbohydrate and lignin content and total reactivity. The negative correlation between lignin content and total reactivity suggests that lignin may interfere with sugar release, or that more mature samples (with higher structural sugars) may have more recalcitrant lignin. Conclusions: The assay presented in this work provides a robust and straightforward method to measure the sugar release after pretreatment and saccharification that can be used as a biomass feedstock screening tool. We demonstrated the utility of the assay by identifying correlations between feedstock composition and reactivity in a population of 150 samples.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number162
Number of pages14
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Volume6
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - 2013

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-60001

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