One commonly cited factor that contributes to the recalcitrance of biomass is cellulose crystallinity. The present study aims to establish the effect of several pretreatment technologies on cellulose crystallinity, crystalline allomorph distribution, and cellulose ultrastructure. The observed changes in the cellulose ultrastructure of poplar were also related to changes in enzymatic hydrolysis, a measure of biomass recalcitrance. Hot-water, organo-solv, lime, lime-oxidant, dilute acid, and dilute acid-oxidant pretreatments were compared in terms of changes in enzymatic sugar release and then changes in cellulose ultrastructure measured by 13C cross polarization magic angle spinning nuclear magnetic resonance and wide-angle X-ray diffraction. Pretreatment severity and relative chemical depolymerization/degradation were assessed through compositional analysis and high-performance anion-exchange chromatography with pulsed amperometric detection. Results showed minimal cellulose ultrastructural changes occurred due to lime and lime-oxidant pretreatments, which at short residence time displayed relatively high enzymatic glucose yield. Hot water pretreatment moderately changed cellulose crystallinity and crystalline allomorph distribution, yet produced the lowest enzymatic glucose yield. Dilute acid and dilute acid-oxidant pretreatments resulted in the largest increase in cellulose crystallinity, para-crystalline, and cellulose-Iβ allomorph content as well as the largest increase in cellulose microfibril or crystallite size. Perhaps related, compositional analysis and Klason lignin contents for samples that underwent dilute acid and dilute acid-oxidant pretreatments indicated the most significant polysaccharide depolymerization/degradation also ensued. Organo-solv pretreatment generated the highest glucose yield, which was accompanied by the most significant increase in cellulose microfibril or crystallite size and decrease in relatively lignin contents. Hot-water, dilute acid, dilute acid-oxidant, and organo-solv pretreatments all showed evidence of cellulose microfibril coalescence.
- Biomass pretreatment
- Enzymatic hydrolysis