Limits for alkaline detoxification of dilute-acid lignocellulose hydrolysates

N.-O. Nilvebrant, Per Persson, A Reimann, F de Sousa, Lo Gorton, L J Jönsson

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In addition to fermentable sugars, dilute-acid hydrolysates of lignocellulose contain compounds that inhibit fermenting microorganisms, such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Previous results show that phenolic compounds and furan aldehydes, and to some extent aliphatic acids, act as inhibitors during fermentation of dilute-acid hydrolysates of spruce. Treatment of lignocellulose hydrolysates with alkali, usually in the form of overliming to pH 10.0, has been frequently employed as a detoxification method to improve fermentability. A spruce dilute-acid hydrolysate was treated with NaOH in a factorial design experiment, in which the pH was varied between 9.0 and 12.0, the temperature between 5 and 80°C, and the time between 1 and 7 h. Already at pH 9.0, >25% of the glucose was lost when the hydrolysate was treated at 80°C for 1 h. Among the monosaccharides, xylose was degraded faster under alkaline conditions than the hexoses (glucose, mannose, and galactose), which, in turn, were degraded faster than arabinose. The results suggest that alkali treatment of hydrolysates can be performed at temperatures below 30°C at any pH between 9.0 and 12.0 without problems with sugar degradation or formation of inhibiting aliphatic acids. Treatment with Ca(OH)2 instead of NaOH resulted in more substantial degradation of sugars. Under the harsher conditions of the factorial design experiment, the concentrations of furfural and 5-hydroxymethylfurfural decreased while the total phenolic content increased. The latter phenomenon was tentatively attributed to fragmentation of soluble aromatic oligomers in the hydrolysate. Separate phenolic compounds were affected in different ways by the alkaline conditions with some compounds showing an increase in concentration while others decreased. In conclusion, the conditions used for detoxification with alkali should be carefully controlled to optimize the positive effects and minimize the degradation of fermentable sugars.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)615-628
JournalApplied Biochemistry and Biotechnology
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Bibliographical note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015.
The record was previously connected to the following departments: Analytical Chemistry (S/LTH) (011001004)

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


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