SBIR Phase I: Catalytic Conversion of Lignocellulosic Biomass into Glucose using Green Solvents

Period of Performance: 07/01/2015 - 06/30/2016

$150K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Glucan Biorenewables LLC
505 South Rosa Rd Suite 112
Madison, WI 53719
Firm POC, Principal Investigator

Abstract

The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project is the production of low cost glucose from biomass. The production of cost-competitive biofuels from biomass has been a significant industrial challenge due to the high cost of fractionation and conversion into sugars and biofuels. A renewable solvent has been shown to enable the efficient fractionation of the biomass into three components, which can be further processed within the solvent into higher value products. One of the component parts of biomass can be further processed to produce glucose. The ability to co-produce glucose with one or two other high value products from a single source of biomass provides a significant economic advantage. With success, this biorefinery concept will enable the production of cost competitive glucose for biofuels from a variety of biomass types. The objectives of this Phase I research project are to demonstrate the low cost production of glucose from cellulosic sugar in gamma-valerolactone and use the by-products from this process to produce the gamma-valerolactone. The first step in the process, fractionation of the biomass, has been demonstrated at bench scale using multiple types of biomass. The solvent solubilizes the five-carbon carbohydrates (C5) and lignin components leaving a solid cellulose. Production of the C5 carbohydrates in the renewable solvent has been proven to be advantageous versus aqueous systems as the increased reactivity of acids in these solvents allows for the utilization of low concentration of acid, short residence times (minutes) and low temperatures. The lignin is preserved in these mild conditions and precipitated out; while the C5 carbohydrate is converted into furfural. This project proposes to apply the same solvent advantages in the conversion of cellulose to sugars delivering monomeric glucose at low cost. The solvent utilized in the process will be produced from by-products, demonstrating that the process can be self-sustainable and improve the carbon utilization. The glucose produced will be similar to the glucose produced from corn or sugarcane and will be competitive in price.