Microfluidic reactor designed for time-lapsed imaging of pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass

Document Type


Publication Date



Department of Chemical Engineering


The effect of tissue-specific biochemical heterogeneities of lignocellulosic biomass on biomass deconstruction is best understood through confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) combined with immunohistochemistry. However, this process can be challenging, given the fragility of plant materials, and is generally not able to observe changes in the same section of biomass during both pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis. To overcome this challenge, a custom polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) microfluidic imaging reactor was constructed using standard photolithographic techniques. As proof of concept, CLSM was performed on 60 μm-thick corn stem sections during pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis using the imaging reactor. Based on the fluorescence images, the less lignified parenchyma cell walls were more susceptible to pretreatment than the lignin-rich vascular bundles. During enzymatic hydrolysis, the highly lignified protoxylem cell wall was the most resistant, remaining unhydrolyzed even after 48 h. Therefore, imaging thin whole biomass sections was useful to obtain tissue-specific changes during biomass deconstruction.

Publication Title

Bioresource technology