Effect of pretreatment on the breakdown of lignocellulosic matrix in barley straw as feedstock for biofuel production
Lignocellulosic biomass is composed of cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin and extraneous compounds (waxes, fats, gums, starches, alkaloids, resins, tannins, essential oils, silica, carbonates, oxalates, etc). The sugars within the complex carbohydrates (cellulose and hemicellulose) can be accessed for cellulosic bioethanol production through ethanologenic microorganisms. However, the composite nature of lignocellulosic biomass, particularly the lignin portion, presents resistance and recalcitrance to biological and chemical degradation during enzymatic hydrolysis/saccharification and the subsequent fermentation process. This leads to a very low conversion rate, which makes the process uneconomically feasible. Thus, biomass structure requires initial breakdown of the lignocellulosic matrix. In this study, two types of biomass pretreatment were applied on barley straw grind: radio-frequency (RF)-based dielectric heating technique using alkaline (NaOH) solution as a catalyst and steam explosion pretreatment at low severity factor. The pretreatment was applied on barley straw which was ground in hammer mill with a screen size of 1.6 mm, so as to enhance its accessibility and digestibility by enzymatic reaction during hydrolysis. Three levels of temperature (70, 80, and 90oC), five levels of ratio of biomass to 1% NaOH solution (1:4, 1:5, 1:6, 1:7, & 1:8), 1 h soaking time, and 20 min residence time were used for the radio frequency pretreatment. The following process and material variables were used for the steam explosion pretreatment: temperature (140-180oC), retention time (5-10 min), and 8-50% moisture content (w.b). The effect of both pretreatments was assessed through chemical composition analysis and densification of the pretreated and non-pretreated biomass samples. Results of this investigation show that lignocellulosic biomass absorbed more NaOH than water, because of the hydrophobic nature of lignin, which acts as an external crosslink binder on the biomass matrix and shields the hydrophilic structural carbohydrates (cellulose and hemicellulose). It was observed in the RF pretreatment that the use of NaOH solution and the ratio of biomass to NaOH solution played a major role, while temperature played a lesser role in the breakdown of the lignified matrix, as well as in the production of pellets with good physical quality. The heat provided by the RF is required to assist the alkaline solution in the deconstruction and disaggregation of lignocellulosic biomass matrix. The disruption and deconstruction of the lignified matrix is also associated with the dipole interaction, flip flop rotation, and friction generated between the electromagnetic charges from the RF and the ions and molecules from the NaOH solution and the biomass. The preserved cellulose from the raw sample (non-treated) was higher than that from the RF alkaline pretreated samples because of the initial degradation of the sugars during the pretreatment process. The same observation applies to hemicellulose. This implies that there is a trade-off between the breakdown of the biomass matrix/creating pores in the lignin and enhancing the accessibility and digestibility of the cellulose and hemicellulose. The use of dilute NaOH solution in biomass pretreatment showed that the higher the NaOH concentration, the lower was the acid insoluble lignin and the higher was the solubilized lignin moieties. The ratio of 1:6 at the four temperatures studied was determined to be the optimal. Based on the obtained data, it is predicted that this pretreatment will decrease the required amount and cost of enzymes by up to 64% compared to using non-treated biomass. However, the use of NaOH led to an increase in the ash content of biomass. The ash content increased with the decreasing ratio of biomass to NaOH solution. This problem of increased ash content can be addressed by washing the pretreated samples. RF assisted-alkaline pretreatment technique represents an easy to set-up and potentially affordable route for the bio-fuel industry, but this requires further energy analysis and economic validation, so as to investigate the significant high energy consumption during the RF-assisted alkaline pretreatment heating process. Data showed that in the steam explosion (SE) pretreatment, considerable thermal degradation of the energy potentials (cellulose and hemicellulose) with increasing acid soluble and insoluble lignin content occurred. The high degradation of the hemicellulose can be accounted for by its amorphous nature which is easily disrupted by external influences unlike the well-arranged crystalline cellulose. It is predicted that this pretreatment will decrease the required amount and cost of enzymes by up to 33% compared to using non-treated biomass.The carbon content of the solid SE product increased at higher temperature and longer residence time, while the hydrogen and oxygen content decreased. The RF alkaline and SE treatment combinations that resulted to optimum yield of cellulose and hemicellulose were selected and then enzymatically digested with a combined mixture of cellulase and β-glucosidase enzymes at 50oC for 96 h on a shaking incubator at 250 rev/min. The glucose in the hydrolyzed samples was subsequently quantified. The results obtained confirmed the effectiveness of the pretreatment processes. The average available percentage glucose yield that was released during the enzymatic hydrolysis for bioethanol production ranged from 78-96% for RF-alkaline pretreated and 30-50% for the SE pretreated barley straw depending on the treatment combination. While the non-treated sample has available average percentage glucose yield of just below 12%. The effects of both pretreatment methods (RF and SE) were further evaluated by pelletizing the pretreated and non-pretreated barley straw samples in a single pelleting unit. The physical characteristics (pellet density, tensile strength, durability rating, and dimensional stability) of the pellets were determined. The lower was the biomass:NaOH solution ratio, the better was the quality of the produced pellets. Washing of the RF-alkaline pretreated samples resulted in pellets with low quality. A biomass:NaOH solution ratio of 1:8 at the three levels of temperature (70, 80, and 90oC) studied are the RF optimum pretreatment conditions. The higher heating value (HHV) and the physical characteristics of the produced pellets increased with increasing temperature and residence time. The steam exploded samples pretreated at higher temperatures (180ºC) and retention time of 10 min resulted into pellets with good physical qualities. Fourier transform infrared-photoacoustic spectroscopy (FTIR-PAS) was further applied on the RF alkaline and SE samples in light of the need for rapid and easy quantification of biomass chemical components (cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin). The results obtained show that the FTIR-PAS spectra can be rapidly used for the analysis and identification of the chemical composition of biofuel feedstock. Predictive models were developed for each of the biomass components in estimating their respective percentage chemical compositions.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
DepartmentChemical and Biological Engineering
SupervisorTabil, Lope G.
CommitteeBaik, Oon Doo; Venkatesh, Meda; Niu, Catherine; Dumonceaux, Tim
Copyright DateOctober 2014
radio frequency heating