Synergistic maximization of the carbohydrate output and lignin processability by combinatorial pretreatment†
Lignocellulosic biorefineries have gained much attention worldwide as a potential solution to the challenges of energy demand and global climate change. However, the industrial implementation of biorefineries has been hindered by low fermentable sugar yields and low lignin processability. Combinatorial pretreatments with a low holding temperature were investigated in an effort to synergistically improve the carbohydrate output and lignin processability from corn stover. Upon combinatorial pretreatment with 1% H2SO4 for 30 min followed by 1% NaOH for 60 min at 120 °C, glucan and xylan conversion increased by 11.2% and 8.3% respectively relative to single pretreatment. This combinational pretreatment removed the amorphous portion, disrupted the rigid structure, and increased the water holding capacity of corn stover, thus increasing the hydrolysis performance. With whole fractionation by combinatorial pretreatment, glucose and xylose yields were 88.4% and 72.6%, respectively, representing increases of 10.0% and 8.1%. The lignin yield was 19.7% in the solid residue and 77.6% in the liquid stream, which increased by 33.4%. When grown in fed-batch fermentation mode, a record level of polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) concentration (1.0 g l−1) was obtained using lignin as a carbon source by Pseudomonas putida KT2440. Lignin characterization results showed that combinatorial pretreatment increased the G- and H-lignin content, reduced the β–β and β-O-4 groups, and fractionated more aromatic monomers, thus facilitating lignin processability into PHA. These results highlighted the use of combinational pretreatment at a low holding temperature as a means to synergistically maximize the carbohydrate output and lignin processability, which provides a unique set of features to improve the biorefining performance.