(501d) Lignocellulosic Biomass Fractionation and Upgrading Strategies Using Gamma Valerolactone As Solvent

Martin Alonso, D., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Hakim, S. H., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Zhou, S., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Won, W., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Tao, J., Center for Renewable Carbon
Garcia-Negron, V., Center for Renewable Carbon
Motagamwala, A. H., University of Michigan
Mellmer, M. A., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co
Huang, K., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Houtman, C. J., USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory
Labbé, N., University of Tennessee
Harper, D., University of Tennessee
Maravelias, C., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Runge, T., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Dumesic, J., University of Wisconsin-Madison
The first step toward a successful biorefinery is the effective deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass into its main components, cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin to maximize the value of each of those fractions.

GVL fractionation technology is a promising alternative to achieve that objective. Because hydrolysis (100x) and dehydration (30x) reaction rates are faster in GVL than in water, (1, 2) the biomass fractionation step can be carried out at mild conditions (time, temperature, acid concentration, and pressure) producing a high purity solid cellulose stream, and a concentrated liquid hemicellulose and lignin without degrading or diminishing the value of any of the fractions. In addition, the higher solubility of lignin in GVL allows the use of high biomass loading (>30%) reducing the solvent utilization. Solvent recovery is facilitated by the high chemical stability of the GVL, and the fact that GVL can be easily produced from biomass, (3) helps to improve the process economics.

The cellulose produced by this technology has high purity and can be used as dissolving pulp, converted into fermentable sugars, ethanol or specialty chemicals such as levulinic acid and HMF. The mild processing conditions used during the biomass fractionation allow to retain the native structure of the lignin that can be isolated at high purity and used to produce carbon foams or battery anodes. Finally, the hemicellulose fraction can be converted into furfural, a specialty chemical, at high yields and without intermediate separations. This technology maximizes the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into high value products (up to 80% of the biomass to useful products) producing a revenue over $500 per MT of dry biomass which makes the technology economically competitive. (4)

1. M. A. Mellmer, C. Sener, J. M. R. Gallo, J. S. Luterbacher, D. M. Alonso, J. A. Dumesic, Solvent Effects in Acid-Catalyzed Biomass Conversion Reactions. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 53, 11872–11875 (2014).

2. M. A. Mellmer, D. M. Alonso, J. S. Luterbacher, J. M. R. Gallo, J. A. Dumesic, Effects of γ-valerolactone in hydrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass to monosaccharides. Green Chem. 16, 4659–4662 (2014).

3. D. M. Alonso, S. G. Wettstein, J. A. Dumesic, Gamma-valerolactone, a sustainable platform molecule derived from lignocellulosic biomass. Green Chem. 15, 584 (2013).

4. Alonso et al., Increasing the revenue from lignocellulosic biomass: Maximizing feedstock utilization. Submitted to Science Advances (2017)