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Title: Ammonia-salt solvent promotes cellulosic biomass deconstruction under ambient pretreatment conditions to enable rapid soluble sugar production at ultra-low enzyme loadings
Here, we report a novel ammonia : ammonium salt solvent based pretreatment process that can rapidly dissolve crystalline cellulose into solution and eventually produce highly amorphous cellulose under near-ambient conditions. Pre-activating the cellulose I allomorph to its ammonia–cellulose swollen complex (or cellulose III allomorph) at ambient temperatures facilitated rapid dissolution of the pre-activated cellulose in the ammonia-salt solvent ( i.e. , ammonium thiocyanate salt dissolved in liquid ammonia) at ambient pressures. For the first time in reported literature, we used time-resolved in situ neutron scattering methods to characterize the cellulose polymorphs structural modification and understand the mechanism of crystalline cellulose dissolution into a ‘molecular’ solution in real-time using ammonia-salt solvents. We also used molecular dynamics simulations to provide insight into solvent interactions that non-covalently disrupted the cellulose hydrogen-bonding network and understand how such solvents are able to rapidly and fully dissolve pre-activated cellulose III. Importantly, the regenerated amorphous cellulose recovered after pretreatment was shown to require nearly ∼50-fold lesser cellulolytic enzyme usage compared to native crystalline cellulose I allomorph for achieving near-complete hydrolytic conversion into soluble sugars. Lastly, we provide proof-of-concept results to further showcase how such ammonia-salt solvents can pretreat and fractionate lignocellulosic biomass like corn stover under ambient processing conditions, while selectively co-extracting ∼80–85% of total lignin, to produce a highly digestible polysaccharide-enriched feedstock for biorefinery applications. Unlike conventional ammonia-based pretreatment processes ( e.g. , Ammonia Fiber Expansion or Extractive Ammonia pretreatments), the proposed ammonia-salt process can operate at near-ambient conditions to greatly reduce the pressure/temperature severity necessary for conducting effective ammonia-based pretreatments on lignocellulose.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1846797 1604421
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Green Chemistry
Page Range / eLocation ID:
204 to 218
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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