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Department of Chemical Engineering


Lignocellulosic materials are plant-derived feedstocks, such as crop residues (e.g., corn stover, rice straw, and sugar cane bagasse) and purpose-grown energy crops (e.g., miscanthus, and switchgrass) that are available in large quantities to produce biofuels, biochemicals, and animal feed. Plant polysaccharides (i.e., cellulose, hemicellulose, and pectin) embedded within cell walls are highly recalcitrant towards conversion into useful products. Ammonia fiber expansion (AFEX) is a thermochemical pretreatment that increases accessibility of polysaccharides to enzymes for hydrolysis into fermentable sugars. These released sugars can be converted into fuels and chemicals in a biorefinery. Here, we describe a laboratory-scale batch AFEX process to produce pretreated biomass on the gram-scale without any ammonia recycling. The laboratory-scale process can be used to identify optimal pretreatment conditions (e.g., ammonia loading, water loading, biomass loading, temperature, pressure, residence time, etc.) and generates sufficient quantities of pretreated samples for detailed physicochemical characterization and enzymatic/microbial analysis. The yield of fermentable sugars from enzymatic hydrolysis of corn stover pretreated using the laboratory-scale AFEX process is comparable to pilot-scale AFEX process under similar pretreatment conditions. This paper is intended to provide a detailed standard operating procedure for the safe and consistent operation of laboratory-scale reactors for performing AFEX pretreatment of lignocellulosic biomass.

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Copyright © 2020 Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

Journal of Visualized Experiments

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


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