Double Salt Ionic Liquids for Efficient Biomass Pretreatment

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Background
Ionic liquids (ILs) have been very attractive components in the essential step of biomass pretreatment. However, economic and technical challenges remain; new methods are required to reduce the cost of ILs without compromising highly efficient pretreatment of woody biomass.
Technology Overview
Researchers at Berkeley Lab have developed a unique and economical approach to enhance biomass pretreatment efficacy via double salt ionic liquids (DSILs), which are organic salts containing three or more ions. Particularly, IL-based pretreatments are known to reduce cellulose crystallinity, enhance surface accessibility to biocatalysts, and facilitate lignin removal.
In the pretreatment of challenging woody biomass such as pine at 20% solid loading and identical biomass to IL ratio, the pretreatment efficacy of cholinium lysinate ([Ch][Lys]) measured in terms of sugar release was improved from 49% and 43% to 80% and 70% of glucose and xylose, respectively, when doped with small amounts of 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium acetate ([C2mim][OAc]). Also, these ions in combination had a remarkable effect on the lignin structure (less condensed lignin), composition, and content of the lignin that will enable facile conversion of lignin into value-added chemicals. The invention is highly compatible with downstream processes and reduces the amount of ILs required for effective pretreatment (Figure 1).
Ultimately, this technology helps to achieve a high concentration of fermentable sugars while leaving the residual lignin for conversion to valuable chemicals, even from woody biomass.
Stage of Development
Proven principle.
Benefits

Improved efficiency of cheaper ionic liquids (ILs) for woody biomass compared to previous methods
Decreased overall operating expenses (ILs developed from inexpensive reagents)
Biomass type versatility
Possible recycling
Scale-up potential

Applications

Deconstruction of biomass into biofuels and bioproduct

Opportunity
Available for licensing or collaborative research.

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