In the bioconversion of lignocellulosic materials to ethanol, pretreatment of the material prior to enzymatic hydrolysis is essential to obtain high overall yields of sugar and ethanol. In this study, steam pretreatment of fast-growing Salix impregnated with sulfuric acid has been investigated by varying the temperature (180-210 degrees C), the residence time (4, 8 or 12 min), and the acid concentration (0.25% or 0.5% (w/w) H2SO4). High sugar recoveries were obtained after pretreatment, and the highest yields of glucose and xylose after the subsequent enzymatic hydrolysis step were 92% and 86% of the theoretical, respectively, based on the glucan and xylan contents of the raw material. The most favorable pretreatment conditions regarding the overall sugar yield were 200 degrees C for either 4 or 8 min using 0.5% sulfuric acid, both resulting in a total of 55.6 g glucose and xylose per 100 g dry raw material. Simultaneous saccharification and fermentation experiments were performed on the pretreated slurries at an initial water-insoluble content of 5%, using ordinary baker's yeast. An overall theoretical ethanol yield of 79%, based on the glucan and mannan content in the raw material, was obtained. (C) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.