Comparison of dilute acid and ionic liquid pretreatment of switchgrass: Biomass recalcitrance, delignification and enzymatic saccharification
The efficiency of two biomass pretreatment technologies, dilute acid hydrolysis and dissolution in an ionic liquid, are compared in terms of delignification, saccharification efficiency and saccharide yields with switchgrass serving as a model bioenergy crop. When subject to ionic liquid pretreatment (dissolution and precipitation of cellulose by anti-solvent) switchgrass exhibited reduced cellulose crystallinity, increased surface area, and decreased lignin content compared to dilute acid pretreatment. Pretreated material was characterized by powder X-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy and chemistry methods. Ionic liquid pretreatment enabled a significant enhancement in the rate of enzyme hydrolysis of the cellulose component of switchgrass, with a rate increase of 16.7-fold, and a glucan yield of 96.0% obtained in 24 h. These results indicate that ionic liquid pretreatment may offer unique advantages when compared to the dilute acid pretreatment process for switchgrass. However, the cost of the ionic liquid process must also be taken into consideration.