CO2 enabled process integration for the production of cellulosic ethanol using bionic liquids

Jian Sun, N. V.S.N. Murthy Konda, Jian Shi, Ramakrishnan Parthasarathi, Tanmoy Dutta, Feng Xu, Corinne D. Scown, Blake A. Simmons, Seema Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


There is a clear and unmet need for a robust and affordable biomass conversion technology that can process a wide range of biomass feedstocks and produce high yields of fermentable sugars and biofuels with minimal intervention between unit operations. The lower microbial toxicity of recently-developed renewable ionic liquids (ILs), or bionic liquids (BILs), helps overcome the challenges associated with the integration of pretreatment with enzymatic saccharification and microbial fermentation. However, the most effective BILs known to date for biomass pretreatment form extremely basic pH solutions in the presence of water, and therefore require neutralization before the pH range is acceptable for the enzymes and microbes used to complete the biomass conversion process. Neutralization using acids creates unwanted secondary effects that are problematic for efficient and cost-effective biorefinery operations using either continuous or batch modes. We demonstrate a novel approach that addresses these challenges through the use of gaseous carbon dioxide to reversibly control the pH mismatch. This approach enables the realization of an integrated biomass conversion process that eliminates the need for intermediate washing and/or separation steps. A preliminary technoeconomic analysis indicates that this integrated approach could reduce production costs by 50-65% compared to previous IL biomass conversion methods studied.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2822-2834
Number of pages13
JournalEnergy and Environmental Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work conducted by the Joint BioEnergy Institute was supported by the Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research of the U.S. Department of Energy under contract no. DE-AC02-05CH11231. The enzymes used in this manuscript were provided by Novozymes. The authors thank Britt Abrahamson, Dr Ning Sun and Dr Douglas Higgins for assistance in IL toxicity screening experiments and Nathan Hillson for assistance in reviewing the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Royal Society of Chemistry.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Pollution


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