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Selectively biorefining levoglucosan from NaOH pretreated corncobs via fast pyrolysis

  • Liqun JiangEmail author
  • Yaxiang Wu
  • Zengli Zhao
  • Haibin Li
  • Kun ZhaoEmail author
  • Fan ZhangEmail author
Original Research


Fast pyrolysis is a comparable technology with enzyme or acid hydrolysis for saccharification of biomass. The low yield of levoglucosan and the formation of inhibitors to biocatalysts from lignocellulose hamper the fermentable utilization of pyrolysate. In this study, aiming to enhance the production of levoglucosan, dilute alkali pretreatment was performed prior to fast pyrolysis of corncobs. The yield of levoglucsoan from pretreated corncobs was significantly improved (34.8%) as compared to that from un-treated corncobs (3.0%), which was mainly attributed to the removal of alkaline and alkaline earth metals as well as lignin fraction by NaOH pretreatment. Conversely, NaOH pretreatment suppressed the formation of acids (from 11.1 to 2.2%), furans (from 2.5 to 2.0%), ketones (from 15.7 to 9.8%) and phenols (from 4.8 to 1.3%), which were common inhibitors to the biocatalysts. Accordingly, NaOH pretreatment facilitated further selective conversion of biomass in fast pyrolysis and made the pyrolysate more fermentable.

Graphic abstract


Biomass Alkali pretreatment Fast pyrolysis Levoglucosan 



This study was funded by the Project Foundation of Guangdong province and Guangzhou city (Nos. 2017A020216007, 201707010236) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 51606204 and 51876208).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Guangdong Key Laboratory of New and Renewable Energy Research and Development, Key Laboratory of Renewable Energy, Guangzhou Institute of Energy ConversionChinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Biomass Group, Key Laboratory of Tropical Plant Resources and Sustainable Use, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical GardenChinese Academy of SciencesKunmingChina

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