Extrusion as a thermo-mechanical pre-treatment for lignocellulosic ethanol
Two physical pre-treatment methods, particle size reduction by grinding and thermo-mechanical extrusion, were evaluated as alternatives to traditional biomass pretreatments for lignocellulosic ethanol. Commonly available agricultural co-products wheat bran and soybean hull were the model substrates. Extrusion led to higher reducing sugar yields as compared to grinding for wheat bran, but not in the case of soybean hulls. The best combination of extrusion screw speed and maximum barrel temperature were 7 Hz/150 °C and 3.7 Hz/110 °C. The use of a solvent mixture (sodium hydroxide, urea, and thiourea) and calcium chloride solution in combination with extrusion treatment did not lead to improvement in reducing sugar yield. However, extensive washing to get rid of solvents and enzymatic inhibitors improved the conversion efficiency substantially, resulting in total reducing sugar yields of 60–73% and 25–36%, respectively, for wheat bran and soybean hull.