(394a) Integrating Nanocellulose Production with Biofuel

This study demonstrated the feasibility of integrating the production of nano-fibrillated cellulose (NFC), a potentially highly valuable biomaterial, with sugar/biofuel (ethanol) from wood fibers. Commercial cellulase enzymes were used to fractionate the less recalcitrant amorphous cellulose from a bleached kraft eucalyptus pulp resulting in a highly crystalline and recalcitrant cellulose (RC). The RC is difficult to hydrolyze to sugars but very suitable for producing biobased nanomaterials through mechanical homogenization. A range of fractionation yields of RC from 10–70% can be achieved by varying fractionation duration and enzyme dosage. The crystallinity of the RC was found to be as much as 24% higher than that of the original bleached pulp. The cellulase fractionation process facilitated mechanical homogenization by significantly reducing the degree of polymerization (DP) to about 400 and the length of the fibers to about 200 mm. The hydrolyzed sugars were found to be easily converted to ethanol through yeast fermentation with excellent efficiency of 91%. Films made from nano-fibrillated cellulose were found to be optically transparent with opacity as low as 12%. The NFC films were mechanically strong and stiff with tensile strengths and moduli approximately 10 and 6 times higher than film made from fibers that had not been nano-fibrillated.