Biomass Hydrolysis in Ionic Liquids
Lignocellulosic biomass is a potentially valuable resource for transformation into biofuels and bio-based products. The transformation of biomass into bioethanol involves four basic steps: pre-treatment, hydrolysis, fermentation and distillation. The hydrolysis of cellulose to yield fermentable sugars is an essential step in any practical cellulosic-ethanol process before the microbial action to produce ethanol. The application of ionic liquids as media for the dissolution, pre-treatment and hydrolysis of biomass is a novel alternative method that follows the green chemistry concept and makes the process to obtain biofuels and high-value chemicals more efficient, resulting in improved overall productivity. However, there are still many challenges in order to put these potential applications into practical use: the high price of ionic liquids and lack of basic physicochemical and toxicological data. This chapter focuses on the applications and challenges to use ionic liquids as an aid to carry out biomass hydrolysis.