Enhanced Mixed Feedstock Processing using Ionic Liquids

Period of Performance: 01/01/2014 - 12/31/2014


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Compact Membrane Systems, Inc.
Firm POC
Principal Investigator


Researchers at JBEI have developed a pretreatment technology using ionic liquids that efficiently extracts sugars from a combination of mixed feed stocks. Any ionic liquid used for biomass pretreatment or cellulose hydrolysis by thermostable cellulose may be used. Until now, no known technology could efficiently pretreat and liberate sugars from mixed feedstock streams. The JBEI technology has been successfully demonstrated in a mixture of softwood (pine), hardwood (eucalyptus), grass (switchgrass), and agricultural (corn stover) feed stocks. In tests, sugar yield reached 0.8 mg/ml within 6 hours and 1 mg/ml after a 24 hour period. The ability to recover a higher tonnage of biomass per acre where a variety of crops are present due to intercropping, row cropping, relay cropping and similar cultivation methods has the potential to significantly lower the cost of lignocellulosic biofuel and biomaterials production. A pretreatment that is effective on a wide range of lignocellulosic feed stocks will further lower overall biorefinery costs. A key challenge associated with utilizing ionic liquids (IL) as solvents for dissolving cellulose and sugars is water management. Cellulosics and associated processing inherently introduce water into IL and this water is both strongly bound to the IL and also dramatically changes the IL solvent power. To maintain solvent power for biomass, water level in IL must be below 6%.It is this combination of properties that have lead many IL experts to state that management of water within the IL is one of the major challenges in the industry. that management of water within the IL is one of the major challenges in the industry. Compact Membrane Systems has identified a breakthrough technology related to membrane dehydration. CMS membrane dehydrators can be used to dehydrate Ionic Liquid and recycle after processing mixed biomass feed stocks to greatly improve overall economics. In Phase I we will enhance both JBEI biomass process and CMS membrane dehydrator and demonstrate process at both lab (100 ml) and pilot scale (1 liter). Strong industry interest, which is in place, will facilitate program if feasibility is demonstrated. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits: Using a broad mixed biomass feed stock and decreasing the pre-treatment cost of cellulosic biomass makes cellulosic biofuels more economically competitive with traditional transportation fuels, which simplifies large expansion of the domestic biofuels industry. This industry expansion would create a large number of domestic jobs while simultaneously reducing dependence on foreign oils, a goal of the 2007 Independence and Security Act.