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Biotechnol Biofuels. 2012 Dec 4;5(1):87. doi: 10.1186/1754-6834-5-87.

Comparative study of sulfite pretreatments for robust enzymatic saccharification of corn cob residue.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083, China.



Corn cob residue (CCR) is a kind of waste lignocellulosic material with enormous potential for bioethanol production. The moderated sulphite processes were used to enhance the hydrophily of the material by sulfonation and hydrolysis. The composition, FT-IR spectra, and conductometric titrations of the pretreated materials were measured to characterize variations of the CCR in different sulfite pretreated environments. And the objective of this study is to compare the saccharification rate and yield of the samples caused by these variations.


It was found that the lignin in the CCR (43.2%) had reduced to 37.8%, 38.0%, 35.9%, and 35.5% after the sulfite pretreatment in neutral, acidic, alkaline, and ethanol environments, respectively. The sulfite pretreatments enhanced the glucose yield of the CCR. Moreover, the ethanol sulfite sample had the highest glucose yield (81.2%, based on the cellulose in the treated sample) among the saccharification samples, which was over 10% higher than that of the raw material (70.6%). More sulfonic groups and weak acid groups were produced during the sulfite pretreatments. Meanwhile, the ethanol sulfite treated sample had the highest sulfonic group (0.103 mmol/g) and weak acid groups (1.85 mmol/g) in all sulfite treated samples. In FT-IR spectra, the variation of bands at 1168 and 1190 cm-1 confirmed lignin sulfonation during sulfite pretreatment. The disappearance of the band at 1458 cm-1 implied the methoxyl on lignin had been removed during the sulfite pretreatments.


It can be concluded that the lignin in the CCR can be degraded and sulfonated during the sulfite pretreatments. The pretreatments improve the hydrophility of the samples because of the increase in sulfonic group and weak acid groups, which enhances the glucose yield of the material. The ethanol sulfite pretreatment is the best method for lignin removal and with the highest glucose yield.

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