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01.03.2011 | Original Article | Ausgabe 1/2011

Biomass Conversion and Biorefinery 1/2011

2nd generation lignocellulosic bioethanol: is torrefaction a possible approach to biomass pretreatment?

Zeitschrift:
Biomass Conversion and Biorefinery > Ausgabe 1/2011
Autoren:
David Chiaramonti, Andrea Maria Rizzo, Matteo Prussi, Silvana Tedeschi, Francesco Zimbardi, Giacobbe Braccio, Egidio Viola, Paolo Taddei Pardelli

Abstract

Biomass pretreatement is a key and energy-consuming step for lignocellulosic ethanol production; it is largely responsible for the energy efficiency and economic sustainability of the process. A new approach to biomass pretreatment for the lignocellulosic bioethanol chain could be mild torrefaction. Among other effects, biomass torrefaction improves the grindability of fibrous materials, thus reducing energy demand for grinding the feedstock before hydrolysis, and opens the biomass structure, making this more accessible to enzymes for hydrolysis. The aim of the preliminary experiments carried out was to achieve a first understanding of the possibility to combine torrefaction and hydrolysis for lignocellulosic bioethanol processes, and to evaluate it in terms of sugar and ethanol yields. In addition, the possibility of hydrolyzing the torrefied biomass has not yet been proven. Biomass from olive pruning has been torrefied at different conditions, namely 180–280°C for 60–120 min, grinded and then used as substrate in hydrolysis experiments. The bioconversion has been carried out at flask scale using a mixture of cellulosolytic, hemicellulosolitic, β-glucosidase enzymes, and a commercial strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The experiments demonstrated that torrefied biomass can be enzymatically hydrolyzed and fermented into ethanol, with yields comparable with grinded untreated biomass and saving electrical energy. The comparison between the bioconversion yields achieved using only raw grinded biomass or torrefied and grinded biomass highlighted that: (1) mild torrefaction conditions limit sugar degradation to 5–10%; and (2) torrefied biomass does not lead to enzymatic and fermentation inhibition. Energy consumption for ethanol production has been preliminary estimated, and three different pretreatment steps, i.e., raw biomass grinding, biomass-torrefaction grinding, and steam explosion were compared. Based on preliminary results, steam explosion still has a significant advantage compared to the other two process chains.

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