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Pretreatment and Fractionation of Wheat Straw for Production of Fuel Ethanol and Value-added Co-products in a Biorefinery

Xiu Zhang Nhuan P. Nghiem

*Corresponding author: Nhuan P. Nghiem John.nghiem@ars.usda.gov

Bioengineering2014,1,40doi:10.3934/bioeng.2014.1.40

An integrated process has been developed for a wheat straw biorefinery. In this process, wheat straw was pretreated by soaking in aqueous ammonia (SAA), which extensively removed lignin but preserved high percentages of the carbohydrate fractions for subsequent bioconversion. The pretreatment conditions included 15 wt% NH4OH, 1:10 solid:liquid ratio, 65 oC and 15 hours. Under these conditions, 48% of the original lignin was removed, whereas 98%, 83% and 78% of the original glucan, xylan, and arabinan, respectively, were preserved. The pretreated material was subsequently hydrolyzed with a commercial hemicellulase to produce a solution rich in xylose and low in glucose plus a cellulose-enriched solid residue. The xylose-rich solution then was used for production of value-added products. Xylitol and astaxanthin were selected to demonstrate the fermentability of the xylose-rich hydrolysate. Candida mogii and Phaffia rhodozyma were used for xylitol and astaxanthin fermentation, respectively. The cellulose-enriched residue obtained after the enzymatic hydrolysis of the pretreated straw was used for ethanol production in a fed-batch simultaneous saccharification and fermentation (SSF) process. In this process, a commercial cellulase was used for hydrolysis of the glucan in the residue and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is the most efficient commercial ethanol-producing organism, was used for ethanol production. Final ethanol concentration of 57 g/l was obtained at 27 wt% total solid loading.

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