A Compatible Ionic Liquid-Cellulases System For Efficient Biomass Conversion

Agriculture Technologies for Licensing

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The Technology

The generation of biofuels and chemicals from renewable lignocellulosic biomass is a potential alternative to petroleum-based products.  A critical step in this conversion process is the efficient enzymatic hydrolysis of lignocellulosics into its component monosaccharides for downstream fermentative conversion to ethanol and other commercially useful co-products.  However, the recalcitrance of lignocellulosics to enzymatic digestion presents a unique challenge that must be overcome to improve the feasibility of biofuel and renewable chemical production.  Presently, various pretreatment methods (e.g., steam explosion, ammonium fiber expansion, and organic solvent treatment) are used to increase the digestibility of lignocellulosic biomass, but these methods are not selective and typically create undesirable by-products that inhibit downstream processing reactions. 

Similarly, while ionic liquids (ILs) have shown significant promise as effective solvents for solubilizing lignocellulosics, cellulases are inactivated at low IL concentrations.  To address this important problem, Dr. Nicole Labbé and her research team have developed a compatible IL-cellulase system that  greatly improves the efficacy of lignocellulose digestion by maintaining cellulase stability and activity.  Their results indicate that this compatible IL-cellulase system can be used as a pretreatment method for enhanced enzymatic conversion of biomass.

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