Feasibility of Commercialization of a Pre-Pretreatment Process for Enhanced Biomass Saccharification

Period of Performance: 01/01/2008 - 12/31/2008


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Suganit Systems Inc
10903 Hunt Club Rd.
Reston, VA 20190
Principal Investigator
Firm POC


Current methods to break-down biomass into simple sugars for fermentation constitute the core barrier to the production of ethanol with minimal energy and water input, and waste output. In particular, the present practice of enzymatically hydrolyzing biomass into its constituent sugars in aqueous media suffers from slow reaction rates. This project will develop an ionic liquid pretreatment process that substantially improves the efficiency of saccharification (hydrolysis of sugar polymers into monomeric sugar) of cellulose (the most recalcitrant biomass component) and hemicellulose. Ionic liquids are a new class of nonvolatile solvents that can be tuned to interact with a wide variety of compounds including cellulose. In Phase I, the processing method will be developed for high-solids loadings in the pretreatment step for variable biomass sources. In Phase II, the processing steps will be scaled up and developed at kilogram levels, in preparation for pilot scale demonstration (i.e., 10 % of full scale). Commercial Applications and other Benefits as described by the awardee: The ionic liquid pretreatment strategy should greatly accelerate the hydrolysis reaction, significantly reducing the cost of lignocellulose conversion to bioethanol ¿ cost savings of approximately 30% are anticipated for both capital costs and operating costs. In addition, because of their extremely low volatility, ionic liquids are expected to have minimal environmental impact on air quality compared to most other volatile solvent systems.