EU Call for Proposals: Valorise sugars from the cellulosic and/or hemicellulosic fractions of lignocellulosic biomass
The use of lignocellulosic feedstock to produce chemicals and materials for commercially viable applications usually focuses on valorising cellulose.
Current processes that use hydrolysis to convert carbohydrate chains into sugars mostly focus on glucose from cellulose for further processing, leaving the other sugars in hemicellulose unused. These include potentially valuable monomers such as xylose, mannose, galactose, arabinose and rhamnose. They could be used either directly, or fermented into compounds for high-value products. Valorising these co-products into specialty sugars or high-value products can significantly increase a biorefinery’s profitability.
Unlike first-generation sugars, the sugars derived from lignocellulosic feedstock often suffer from low purity and/or high dilution levels. This makes fermenting these sugars into usable products and materials very difficult. They have less impact on the production of chemicals such as ethanol or other volatile compounds that can be easily purified and concentrated in the downstream processing steps. Several existing technological solutions to convert cellulose via sugar platforms into ethanol will soon be operating on a large scale. Other product types (bioplastics or non-volatile compounds, for example) with a complex post-conversion purification process require high-purity sugars.
While a great deal of work is ongoing to valorise lignin, valorising the third component of lignocellulose, hemicellulose, presents hurdles that need to be tackled.
The specific challenge of this topic is to better use the sugars from lignocellulosic feedstock in a sustainable way.
Dateline for submission: 6 September 2018 17:00:00 (Brussels time)
Source: European Commission
Illustration Photo: AFEX-treated GLBRC corn stover before enzymatic hydrolysis. Enzymatic hydrolysis is the breaking down of cellulose polymers into monomeric and oligomeric sugars using cellulase enzymes. (credits: Tyler Wittkopp / Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))