Morphological changes to the different components of lignocellulosic biomass were observed as they occurred during steam pretreatment by placing a pressure reaction cell in a neutron beam and collecting time-resolved neutron scattering data. Changes to cellulose morphology occurred mainly in the heating phase, whereas changes in lignin morphology occurred mainly in the holding and cooling phases. During the heating stage, water is irreversibly expelled from cellulose microfibrils as the elementary fibrils coalesce. During the holding phase lignin aggregates begin to appear and they increase in size most noticeably during the cooling phase. This experiment demonstrates the unique information that in situ small angle neutron scattering studies of pretreatment can provide. This approach could be useful in optimizing the heating, holding and cooling stages of pretreatments to allow the exact size and nature of lignin aggregates to be controlled in order to enhance enzyme accessibility to cellulose and therefore the efficiency of biomass conversion.
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This research is funded by the Genomic Science Program, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, U.S. Department of Energy, under FWP ERKP752. The Center for Structural Molecular Biology (CSMB) and the Bio-SANS beam line is supported by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research, using facilities supported by the U. S. Department of Energy, managed by UT-Battelle, LLC under contract No. DE-AC05-00OR22725. This Research on Bio-SANS and GP-SANS at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s High Flux Isotope Reactor was sponsored by the Scientific User Facilities Division, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, US Department of Energy.
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Pingali, S.V., O’Neill, H.M., Nishiyama, Y. et al. Morphological changes in the cellulose and lignin components of biomass occur at different stages during steam pretreatment. Cellulose 21, 873–878 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10570-013-0162-6
- Neutron scattering
- Steam pretreatment