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Biotechnol Adv. 2012 Jul-Aug;30(4):785-810. doi: 10.1016/j.biotechadv.2012.01.013. Epub 2012 Jan 27.

A sustainable woody biomass biorefinery.

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  • 1Department of Paper and Bioprocess Engineering, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry,1 Forestry Drive, Syracuse, NY 13210, USA. sliu@esf.edu


Woody biomass is renewable only if sustainable production is imposed. An optimum and sustainable biomass stand production rate is found to be one with the incremental growth rate at harvest equal to the average overall growth rate. Utilization of woody biomass leads to a sustainable economy. Woody biomass is comprised of at least four components: extractives, hemicellulose, lignin and cellulose. While extractives and hemicellulose are least resistant to chemical and thermal degradation, cellulose is most resistant to chemical, thermal, and biological attack. The difference or heterogeneity in reactivity leads to the recalcitrance of woody biomass at conversion. A selection of processes is presented together as a biorefinery based on incremental sequential deconstruction, fractionation/conversion of woody biomass to achieve efficient separation of major components. A preference is given to a biorefinery absent of pretreatment and detoxification process that produce waste byproducts. While numerous biorefinery approaches are known, a focused review on the integrated studies of water-based biorefinery processes is presented. Hot-water extraction is the first process step to extract value from woody biomass while improving the quality of the remaining solid material. This first step removes extractives and hemicellulose fractions from woody biomass. While extractives and hemicellulose are largely removed in the extraction liquor, cellulose and lignin largely remain in the residual woody structure. Xylo-oligomers, aromatics and acetic acid in the hardwood extract are the major components having the greatest potential value for development. Higher temperature and longer residence time lead to higher mass removal. While high temperature (>200°C) can lead to nearly total dissolution, the amount of sugars present in the extraction liquor decreases rapidly with temperature. Dilute acid hydrolysis of concentrated wood extracts renders the wood extract with monomeric sugars. At higher acid concentration and higher temperature the hydrolysis produced more xylose monomers in a comparatively shorter period of reaction time. Xylose is the most abundant monomeric sugar in the hydrolysate. The other comparatively small amounts of monomeric sugars include arabinose, glucose, rhamnose, mannose and galactose. Acetic acid, formic acid, furfural, HMF and other byproducts are inevitably generated during the acid hydrolysis process. Short reaction time is preferred for the hydrolysis of hot-water wood extracts. Acid hydrolysis presents a perfect opportunity for the removal or separation of aromatic materials from the wood extract/hydrolysate. The hot-water wood extract hydrolysate, after solid-removal, can be purified by Nano-membrane filtration to yield a fermentable sugar stream. Fermentation products such as ethanol can be produced from the sugar stream without a detoxification step.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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