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Carbohydr Res. 2008 Feb 4;343(2):290-300. Epub 2007 Nov 1.

The impact of dilute sulfuric acid on the selectivity of xylooligomer depolymerization to monomers.

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Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth College, NH 03755, USA.


The disappearance of xylose and xylooligosaccharides with degrees of polymerization (DP) ranging from 2 to 5 was followed at 160 degrees C with sulfuric acid added to adjust the pH from near neutral to 1.45, and the impact on the yields of lower DP xylooligomers and xylose monomer was determined. In addition, the experimental data for the disappearance of these xylooligomers was kinetically modeled assuming first-order reaction kinetics for xylose degradation and xylooligomer hydrolysis to evaluate how the pH affected the selectivity of monomer formation from xylooligomers and direct oligomer degradation to unknown products. The yield of xylose from xylooligomers increased appreciably with increasing acid concentration but decreased with increasing xylooligomer DP at a given acid concentration, resulting in more acid being required to realize the same xylose yields for higher DP species. For example, the maximum xylose yields were 49.6%, 28.0%, 13.2% and 3.2% for DP values of 2, 3, 4, and 5, respectively, at pH 4.75. Kinetic modeling revealed that all the xylooligomers disappeared at a higher rate compared to xylose monomer and the disappearance rate constant increased with DP at all pH. The kinetics for lower DP oligomers of 2 and 3 showed that these species directly degrade to unknown compounds in the absence of acid. On the other hand, higher oligomers of DP 4 and 5 exhibited negligible losses to degradation products at all pH. Therefore, only xylooligomers of DP 2 and 3 were found to directly degrade to undesired products in the absence of acid, but more work is needed to determine how higher DP species behave. This study also revealed that the source of water and the material used for the construction of the reactor impacted xylose degradation kinetics.

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