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Annu Rev Chem Biomol Eng. 2011;2:121-45. doi: 10.1146/annurev-chembioeng-061010-114205.

Deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass to fuels and chemicals.

Author information

1
Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA. chundawa@msu.edu

Abstract

Plants represent a vast, renewable resource and are well suited to provide sustainably for humankind's transportation fuel needs. To produce infrastructure-compatible fuels from biomass, two challenges remain: overcoming plant cell wall recalcitrance to extract sugar and phenolic intermediates, and reduction of oxygenated intermediates to fuel molecules. To compete with fossil-based fuels, two primary routes to deconstruct cell walls are under development, namely biochemical and thermochemical conversion. Here, we focus on overcoming recalcitrance with biochemical conversion, which uses low-severity thermochemical pretreatment followed by enzymatic hydrolysis to produce soluble sugars. Many challenges remain, including understanding how pretreatments affect the physicochemical nature of heterogeneous cell walls; determination of how enzymes deconstruct the cell wall effectively with the aim of designing superior catalysts; and resolution of issues associated with the co-optimization of pretreatment, enzymatic hydrolysis, and fermentation. Here, we highlight some of the scientific challenges and open questions with a particular focus on problems across multiple length scales.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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