U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


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Bioenerg. Res. (2010) 3:134–145; DOI 10.1007/s12155-010-9087-1


Fundamental understanding of biomass pretreatment and its influence on saccharification kinetics, total sugar yield, and inhibitor formation is essential to develop efficient next-generation biofuel strategies, capable of displacing fossil fuels at a commercial level. In this study, we investigated the effect of residence time and temperature during ionic liquid (IL) pretreatment of switchgrass using 1-ethyl-3-methyl imidazolium acetate. The primary metrics of pretreatment performance are biomass delignification, xylan and glucan depolymerization, porosity, surface area, cellulase kinetics, and sugar yields. Compositional analysis and quantification of process streams of saccharides and lignin demonstrate that delignification increases as a function of pretreatment temperature and is hypothesized to be correlated with the apparent glass transition temperature of lignin. IL pretreatment did not generate monosaccharides from hemicellulose. Compared to untreated switchgrass, Brunauer–Emmett–Teller surface area of pretreated switchgrass increased by a factor of ∼30, with a corresponding increase in saccharification kinetics of a factor of ∼40. There is an observed dependence of cellulase kinetics with delignification efficiency. Although complete biomass dissolution is observed after 3 h of IL pretreatment, the pattern of sugar release, saccharification kinetics, and total sugar yields are strongly correlated with temperature.