Crop Biotech Update

Studies on Organic Electrolyte of Microcrystalline Cellulose Prior to Enzymatic Saccharification

November 25, 2011

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of Science and Technology in China report the use of an organic electrolyte solution (OES) for treating microcrystalline cellulose,  in an attempt to destroy its crystal structure before enzymatic saccharification. Enzymatic saccharification converts cellulose into simple sugars, which can be fermented into biofuel ethanol. Destruction of the cellulose crystalline structure might increase the sugar conversion during enzymatic saccharification. This study in a model system could provide insights into what might happen to cellulose in actual plant lignocellulosic biomass.

The organic electrolyte solution was composed of an ionic liquid (1-allyl-3- methylimidazolium chloride ([AMIM]Cl) and an organic solvent (dimethyl sulfoxide; DMSO). Results showed that the OES rapidly dissolved the cellulose, to achieve a glucose yield of 51.4%, which was only slightly lower than the glucose yield obtained from a pure ionic liquid (59.6%). The researchers concluded that OES pretreatment can be a cost effective and environmentally friendly technique for cellulose hydrolysis due to 1) its lower cost when compared to the use of pure ionic liquids, (2) short dissolution time, (3) lower energy requirements for stirring and transporting, and (4) recyclability. The full results are published in the open access journal, Biotechnology for Biofuels (URL above).