Membrane Extraction for Removal of Acetic Acid from Biomass Hydrolysates

David L. Grzenia, Daniel J. Schell, S. Ranil Wickramasinghe

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70 Scopus Citations


Production of bioethanol from lignocellulosic biomass requires pretreatment of the biomass in order to improve the susceptibility of the cellulose to enzymatic hydrolysis to glucose. When dilute acid is used to perform this process, the hemicellulose is also hydrolyzed to its component sugars while simultaneously releasing acetyl groups attached to the hemicellulose backbone. Other compounds from the lignin and sugar degradation products are also produced that inhibit subsequent bioconversion of the solubilized sugars to the desired products. In this work we focused on removal of acetic acid from a dilute sulphuric acid pretreated corn stover hydrolysate. Acetic acid has been extracted into an organic phase at pH values below its pKa. The organic phase diluent consisted of octanol. Alamine 336, a tertiary amine and Aliquat 336 a quaternary amine were used as the aliphatic amine extractants. Our results indicate more than 60% removal of acetic acid using Alamine 336. Extraction rates were much slower for Aliquat 336 probably due to the higher viscosity of the Aliquat 336/octanol phase. The presence of sulphate anions, as a result of dilute sulphuric acid pretreatment, results in the co-extraction of bisulphate anion. Bisulphate anion is preferentially extracted at pH values below its pKa. Consequently the pH of the hydrolysate increases from between 1 and 2 to above 4.0 during extraction. In addition, extraction of low molecular weight lignins and phenolics is also observed. Thus the membrane extraction process developed here may be used not only for removal of acetic acid but also to adjust the pH of the hydrolysate to values that are more compatible for fermentation and to remove other inhibitory compounds.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)189-195
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-510-43233


  • Acetic acid
  • Aliphatic amine extractant
  • Hydrolysate
  • Membrane extraction
  • Sulphuric acid


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