Biomass Conversion and Biorefinery

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 813–824 | Cite as

Deconstruction of hybrid poplar to monomeric sugars and aromatics using ethanol organosolv fractionation

  • Janosch Bär
  • Thanaphong Phongpreecha
  • Sandip Kumar Singh
  • Melisa Kral Yilmaz
  • Cliff E. Foster
  • Jacob D. Crowe
  • David B. Hodge
Original Article


Acidic ethanol organosolv fractionation of hybrid poplar was investigated to determine the impact of pretreatment conditions on the resulting biomass and lignin properties and to assess the subsequent deconstruction of the cell wall biopolymers to monomeric sugars and aromatics. It was found that increasing reaction severity (i.e., time and temperature) during the organosolv fractionation increased the rate of delignification and xylan solubilization while the lignins recovered from the liquors were found to exhibit lower degrees of polymerization. Glucose hydrolysis yields > 75% at moderate enzyme loadings (30 mg/g glucan) could be obtained for the more severe pretreatment conditions. The lignins recovered from the pretreatment liquors were subjected to fractionation using a sequential extraction with solvents of increasing polarity. It was found that the low molar mass, low polydispersity lignins increased in pretreatment liquors with increasing time and temperature and were concentrated in the methanol fraction while a high molar mass fraction was extracted with the diethyl ether. We hypothesize that the extraction of the high molar mass fraction with diethyl ether is due to partial ethyl O-alkylation of lignin hydroxyl groups during pretreatment, rendering lignins more soluble in the non-polar solvent. Finally, depolymerization of unfractionated lignins by thioacidolysis resulted in mass yields of aromatic monomers ranging from 80 to 157 mg monomer per gram of lignin and that these yields exhibited strong positive correlations to the lignin β-O-4 content, molar mass, and strong negative correlations to the pretreatment temperature.


Lignin fractionation Organosolv pretreatment Hybrid poplar Biorefinery Biomass deconstruction 



J.B. received support to perform research in Dr. Hodge’s laboratory through an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) Abroad Fellowship from RWTH Aachen University, Germany. M.K.Y. was supported by the University Scholars Program at Montana State University, while Cliff Foster was funded through the DOE Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (DOE BER Office of Science DE-FC02-07ER64494). The authors would like to thank Dr. Brian Tripet (Montana State University Department of Biochemistry) for performing the NMR analysis.

Supplementary material

13399_2018_330_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (196 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 195 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biochemical Engineering, Aachener VerfahrenstechnikRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany
  2. 2.Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials ScienceMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  3. 3.Department of Chemical and Biological EngineeringMontana State UniversityBozemanUSA
  4. 4.Department of BioengineeringIstanbul Technical UniversityIstanbulTurkey
  5. 5.DOE Great Lakes Bioenergy Research CenterMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  6. 6.Division of Sustainable Process EngineeringLuleå University of TechnologyLuleåSweden

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