BioEnergy Research

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 643–655 | Cite as

Novel Biomass Pretreatment Using Alkaline Organic Solvents: A Green Approach for Biomass Fractionation and 2,3-Butanediol Production

  • Yadhu N. Guragain
  • Krishna P. Bastola
  • Ronald L. Madl
  • Praveen V. VadlaniEmail author


Valorization of each component of lignocellulosic biomass is critical for sustainability of biorefinery industries. Current biorefineries are confined to ethanol-centric processes and focus only on the carbohydrate-derived sugar using energy-intensive pretreatment methods, leading to deteriorated lignin quality for high-value applications. Organosolv fractionation is an effective method to improve hydrolysis efficiency of cellulose and extract a good quality lignin stream; however, hemicelluloses recovery is challenging if an acid catalyst is used. An alkali catalyst in the organosolv process, therefore, could be a promising alternative approach. We evaluated various organic solvents (glycerol, 2,3-butanediol, dimethyl sulfoxide, ethanol, butanol, isopropanol, acetonitrile, and water) for pretreatment of different biomass feedstocks, including corn stover (grass), poplar (hardwood), and Douglas fir (softwood) using sodium hydroxide as a catalyst. Results showed that an ethanol and isopropanol mixture led to 18 % more sugar released per gram of biomass than the control (conventional aqueous alkali pretreatment) for corn stover; a mixture of ethanol, butanol, and water was the next most effective solvent. For pretreatment of poplar biomass, glycerol and 2,3-butanediol were the most efficient solvents; glycerol pretreatment offers further process improvement opportunities. The organic solvents used in this experiment were not effective for Douglas fir. The quality of released sugars was statistically equal to that of synthetic sugars for 2,3-butanediol fermentation using Klebsiella oxytoca. This study opened up a promising route for high value application for all biomass components. Further research is needed to characterize the extracted lignin for quality evaluation.


Organosolv Catalyst Pretreatment Fermentation Organic solvent 



This work was funded by the Development Initiative Competitive Grants Program (BRDI; grant number: 2012-10008-20263), and the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR), Department of Navy, grant number: N68335-13-C-0174. The authors are also grateful to Novozymes Inc. for the donation of enzyme samples. Author PVV thanks the Lortscher Endowment for their support. The authors are thankful to Edenspace Inc., Manhattan, Kansas, for proving the poplar sample and Dr. Michael Wolcott, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington for the Douglas fir sample. This manuscript is contribution number 16-106-J from the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yadhu N. Guragain
    • 1
  • Krishna P. Bastola
    • 1
  • Ronald L. Madl
    • 1
  • Praveen V. Vadlani
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Bioprocessing and Renewable Energy Laboratory, Grain Science and IndustryKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA
  2. 2.Department of Chemical EngineeringKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA

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