Pretreatment Process Engineering Group
Current biofuel research deals with process engineering trends for improving the efficiency of biofuel production. Pretreatment is currently one of the most expensive and energy intensive processing steps in the lignocellulosic biomass-to-fermentable sugars conversion process. Researchers in JBEI's Pretreatment Process Engineering Group are exploring and developing novel technologies that effectively disrupt the lignin-carbohydrate complex within biomass and generate a product that is readily converted into monomeric sugars suitable for fermentation into advanced biofuels. The use of ionic liquids as biomass solvents shows great promise, and this team is focused on translating that promise into reality within a commercial setting. This team is developing a fundamental understanding of the material and energy flows associated with the ionic liquid pretreatment process as well as new engineering approaches to processing biomass using these unique solvents.
Figure 1. Reaction scheme for recovering monomeric sugars from ionic liquids using a boronic acid extraction technique. (From JBEI paper: Brennan T.C., Blanch H.W., Simmons B.A., and Holmes B.M. Bioenergy Research (2010) 3:123-133)
- Develop a fundamental understanding of material and energy balances associated with ionic liquid biomass pretreatment.
- Develop new insight into the role of the cation and anion of ionic liquids.
- Develop alternative process engineering options that enable the commercialization of the ionic liquid pretreatment technology.
- Develop effective methods to recycle and reuse ionic liquids.