Biological Systems Engineering


Date of this Version



Published in Bioresource Technology 100 (2009), pp. 1515–1523; doi: 10.1016/j.biortech.2008.09.035 Copyright © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. Used by permission.


Switchgrass is a promising feedstock for value-added applications due to its high productivity, potentially low requirements for agricultural inputs and positive environmental impacts. The objective of this paper is to review published research on the conversion of switchgrass into bioethanol and other value-added products. Environmental benefits associated with switchgrass include the potential for carbon sequestration, nutrient recovery from runoff, soil remediation and provision of habitats for grassland birds. Pretreatment of switchgrass is required to improve the yields of fermentable sugars. Based on the type of pretreatment, glucose yields range from 70% to 90%, and xylose yields range from 70% to 100% after hydrolysis. Following pretreatment and hydrolysis, ethanol yields range from 72% to 92% of the theoretical maximum. Other value-added uses of switchgrass include gasification, bio-oil production, newsprint production, and fiber reinforcement in thermoplastic composites. Future prospects for research include increased biomass yields, optimization of feedstock composition for bioenergy applications, and efficient pentose fermentation to improve ethanol yields.