Process Intensification and Scale-Up of a Continuous Enzymatic Hydrolysis and Separation Process

David Sievers, James Lischeske, James McMillan

Research output: NRELPoster


Combining separate unit operations into one where the best of each part can be maximized is one of the benefits of process intensification. An example is the combination of lignocellulosic biomass enzymatic hydrolysis with the downstream solid-liquid separation step to produce clarified sugars ready for fermentation or catalytic upgrading. The productivity and endpoint yield of enzymatic hydrolysis both enjoy the benefits of reduced feedback inhibition through the continuous removal of sugars by incorporating separations into the reactor. Likewise, the efficiency of recovering clarified sugars from the enzymatic hydrolysis slurry can be enhanced by operating separations equipment at steady-state conditions simultaneously with the continuously fed hydrolysis process. A key parameter that enables greater processing capacity while also raising the risks of failure is the solids loading or concentration. Higher solids loading allows for smaller reactor vessels and results in clarified sugars of higher concentration; however, required pumping power increases, reactor agitation may become ineffective, and membrane flux suffers. Feedstock material attributes influenced by upstream pretreatment must also be scrutinized more carefully: dilute-acid pretreated and deacetylated-and-disc-refined feedstocks exhibit different characteristics that affect agitation and pumping. The authors invite you to further explore the process science enabling the scale-up of this technology from conceptual work at the bench to pilot-scale industrially-relevant equipment where the challenges and solutions of integration and process optimization are expounded upon.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2021

Publication series

NamePresented at the Symposium on Biomaterials, Fuels and Chemicals, 26-28 April 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-5100-79587


  • continuous enzymatic hydrolysis
  • membrane separations
  • process intensification
  • scale-up


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