Illinois researchers study cellulosic pretreatment process

By | September 15, 2009
Research underway at the University of Illinois aims to discover if electrolyzed water can be used to effectively pretreat cellulosic biomass prior to enzymatic hydrolysis. The pretreatment process, which is traditionally completed with harsh chemicals, is designed to loosen up the cellulosic structure so enzymes can more effectively attack the sugars it contains. In addition to being more environmentally friendly, the use of electrolyzed water would also negate the need to detoxify biomass prior to the enzymatic and fermentation stages of fuel production.

The team of researchers, led by University of Illinois food scientist Hao Feng, initiated the research by studying the effectiveness of using electrolyzed water to unlock the sugars contained in the corn fiber portion of distillers grains. The research team plans to also study the effectiveness of the process on other sources of biomass, including switchgrass and miscanthus.