Rapid pretreatment of Miscanthus using the low-cost ionic liquid triethylammonium hydrogen sulfate at elevated temperatures†
Deconstruction with low-cost ionic liquids (ionoSolv) is a promising method to pre-condition lignocellulosic biomass for the production of renewable fuels, materials and chemicals. This study investigated process intensification strategies for ionoSolv pretreatment of Miscanthus × giganteus with the low-cost ionic liquid triethylammonium hydrogen sulfate ([TEA][HSO4]) in the presence of 20 wt% water, using high temperatures and a high solid to solvent loading of 1 : 5 g/g. The temperatures investigated were 150, 160, 170 and 180 °C. We discuss the effect of pretreatment temperature on lignin and hemicellulose removal, cellulose degradation and enzymatic saccharification yields. We report that very good fractionation can be achieved across all investigated temperatures, including an enzymatic saccharification yield exceeding 75% of the theoretical maximum after only 15 min of treatment at 180 °C. We further characterised the recovered lignins, which established some tunability of the hydroxyl group content, subunit composition, connectivity and molecular weight distribution in the isolated lignin while maintaining maximum saccharification yield. This drastic reduction of pretreatment time at increased biomass loading without a yield penalty is promising for the development of a commercial ionoSolv pretreatment process.