- Written by Anna Strom
Bio4Energy researchers have started to carve out a niche for themselves as specialists in dealing with recalcitrant biomass, be it from coniferous trees, agricultural residue or organic waste, a string of recent research results would suggest. While some work to control the organic content of the biomass, others break ground on biomass combustion where the focus is rather on ash chemistry and emission control. In the latter case, the focus is on the inorganic content of biomass.
Looking first at the organic biomass content, on the Bio4Energy Biochemical Platform they lead the world in solving thorny problems to do with the breakdown of wood or forestry residues from spruce trees for the production biofuels and "green" chemicals, a recent evaluation of Bio4Energy 2010-2014 has shown.
Going hand in hand with recent work by these biochemists to demonstrate a new method for large-scale bioethanol production—which makes use of a residual stream previously thought of as an environmental problem—new separation processes that make the wood release its sugars more easily have been put forward and compared by the scientists, who are specialised either in industrial biotechnology or catalytic processes and, in particular, the breakdown of biomass using ionic liquids. (Click on the 'Research' menu heading of this website to access recent Scientific Articles.)
In a recent article in the BMC Biotechnology scientific journal, they explain that, "Lignocellulosic biomass is highly recalcitrant and various pre-treatment techniques are needed to facilitate its effective enzymatic hydrolysis to produce sugars for further conversion to bio-based chemicals. Ionic liquids (ILs) are of interest in pre-treatment because of their potential to dissolve lignocellulosic materials including crystalline cellulose.