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High-Throughput Method for Determining the Sugar Content in Biomass with Pyrolysis Molecular Beam Mass Spectrometry


There is an important need to assess biomass recalcitrance in large populations of both natural and transgenic plants to identify promising candidates for lignocellulosic biofuel production. In order to properly test and optimize parameters for biofuel production, the starting sugar content must be known to calculate percent sugar yield and conversion efficiencies. Pyrolysis molecular beam mass spectrometry (py-MBMS) has been used as a high-throughput method for determination of lignin content and structure, and this report demonstrates its applicability for determining glucose, xylose, arabinose, galactose, and mannose content in biomass. Biomass from conifers, hardwoods, and herbaceous species were used to create a 44 sample partial least squares (PLS) regression models of py-MBMS spectra-based sugar estimates on high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) sugar content data. The total sugar py-MBMS regression model had a R 2 of 0.91 with a 0.17 mg/mg root mean square error of validation indicating accurate estimation of total sugar content for a range of biomass types. Models were validated using eight independent biomass samples from multiple species, with predictions falling within errors of the HPLC data. With a data collection time of 1.5 min per sample, py-MBMS serves as a rapid high-throughput method for quantifying sugar content in biomass.

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This work was conducted as part of the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC). The BESC is a US Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Center supported by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the DOE Office of Science. This work was supported by the US Department of Energy under contract no. DE-AC36-08-GO28308 with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

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The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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Correspondence to Robert W. Sykes.

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Sykes, R.W., Gjersing, E.L., Doeppke, C.L. et al. High-Throughput Method for Determining the Sugar Content in Biomass with Pyrolysis Molecular Beam Mass Spectrometry. Bioenerg. Res. 8, 964–972 (2015).

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  • Glucose
  • Xylose
  • Recalcitrance
  • Prediction
  • Herbaceous
  • Conifer
  • Hardwood
  • Bioenergy