(668d) Thermal Deconstruction Opens Biomass for Acid Hydrolysis to Sugars
We have explored thermal deconstruction, which involves rapidly heating then cooling biomass in an inert environment before complete pyrolysis can occur. While we produce some bio-oil and light gases, solid or liquid phase reactions greatly modify our biomass. As shown through our microscopy and chemical analysis, thermal deconstruction cracks the biopolymers and loosens their lignocellulosic structure. This change allows molecules to diffuse more readily into and out of the biomass. Additionally, we have proven that as the biopolymers fragment into oligomers they become more susceptible to further depolymerization reactions. In particular, when cellulose is thermally deconstructed it rapidly forms anhydro-oligosaccharidesâoligosaccharides where the reducing end has dehydrated. We can hydrolyze these oligomers to glucose under more mild conditions than required for untreated cellulose. Dilute sulfuric acid catalyzes hydrolysisâprimarily in cellulose and hemicellulose oligomersâproducing glucose and xylose, which can be fermented to ethanol or other products. Our process allows for higher monosaccharide yields than those obtainable from fast pyrolysis.