Removal of Water-Soluble Extractives Improves the Enzymatic Digestibility of Steam-Pretreated Softwood Barks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Softwood bark contains a large amounts of extractives—i.e., soluble lipophilic (such as resin acids) and hydrophilic components (phenolic compounds, stilbenes). The effects of the partial removal of water-soluble extractives before acid-catalyzed steam pretreatment on enzymatic digestibility were assessed for two softwood barks—Norway spruce and Scots pine. A simple hot water extraction step removed more than half of the water-soluble extractives from the barks, which improved the enzymatic digestibility of both steam-pretreated materials. This effect was more pronounced for the spruce than the pine bark, as evidenced by the 30 and 11% glucose yield improvement, respectively, in the enzymatic digestibility. Furthermore, analysis of the chemical composition showed that the acid-insoluble lignin content of the pretreated materials decreased when water-soluble extractives were removed prior to steam pretreatment. This can be explained by a decreased formation of water-insoluble “pseudo-lignin” from water-soluble bark phenolics during the acid-catalyzed pretreatment, which otherwise results in distorted lignin analysis and may also contribute to the impaired enzymatic digestibility of the barks. Thus, this study advocates the removal of extractives as the first step in the processing of bark or bark-rich materials in a sugar platform biorefinery.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Bioenergy


  • Bark, Enzymatic saccharification, Extractives, Softwood, Steam pretreatment
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)599-615
JournalApplied Biochemistry and Biotechnology
Issue number2
Early online date2017 Aug 14
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Feb
Publication categoryResearch