Hydrolysis biorefining technologies aim to produce biofuels and/or platform chemicals from the polysaccharides
of lignocellulosic biomass by breaking them apart into their constituent monosaccharide (single sugar) units.
This can be done in various ways, including using enzymes and chemicals. Furthermore, these technologies often involve a pre-treatment stage to
make the lignocellulosic matrix more amenable to subsequent hydrolysis and in many cases these pre-treatments can partially hydrolyse some of the polysaccharides.
Particularly when elevated temperatures and/or chemicals are employed in either pre-treatment or hydrolysis it can be possible for the production of
the monosaccharide to not be the end-point of the process. Some sugars may be further degraded to a variety of potential products. This is important
since these products can often be inhibitory to fermentation or can otherwise complicate subsequent downstream processing methods.
However, some of these sugar degradation products can be valuable chemicals in their own right and technologies may target their production.
The types and concentrations of these sugar degradation products will be dependent on the feedstock, pre-treatment, and hydrolysis methods used and can
vary substantially with these parameters.
Celignis personnel have significant experience in the analysis of sugar degradation products. The company was formed based on the outputs of a
European research project called DIBANET that targeted the production of the degradation products
levulinic acid, furfural, hydroxymethylfurfural, and
formic acid from lignocellulosic biomass. We have developed analytical methods to determine the concentrations of the main
degradation products of interest. These can be categorised according to two main classes, organic acids and furans.
Analysis of Organic Acids
We focus on the analysis of carboxylic acids that can be derived from the degradation of biomass-derived sugars. A carboxylic acid is an organic compound
where a carbon atom is bonded to a hydroxyl group by a single bond and to an oxygen by a double bond. Listed below are the organic acids that we currently
determine in biomass hydrolysates and liquids from biomass pre-treatment processes.
Levulinic acid (or 4-oxopentanoic acid), is a 5-carbon carboxylic acid derived from the acid-catalysed degradation
of glucose and other hexoses. It can be inhibitory to fermentation and enzymatic hydrolysis but can also be a valuable platform
chemical from which a
wide variety of chemicals, that can substitute for petroleum-derived products, can be derived. It is a versatile platform chemical due to its particular
chemistry - it has two highly reactive functional groups (carboxyl and ketone) that allow a great number of synthetic transformations. The United States
Department of Energy recognised levulinic acid as one of the top 12 value added chemicals to be derived from biomass.
Formic acid (methanoic acid) has the formula HCOOH and is the simplest carboxylic acid. It is a co-product in the
production of levulinic acid from hexoses and can also be formed from the degradation of other sugars and sugar-degradation products.
Formic acid is used extensively as a decalcifier, as an acidulating agent in textile dying and finishing, and in
leather tanning. It is also used
in the preparation of organic esters and in the manufacture of drugs, dyes, insecticides, and
refrigerants. In industrial production, formic acid is usually produced as a by-product of acetic acid production by
liquid phase oxidation of hydrocarbons.
Acetic acid (ethanoic acid) has the
formula CH3COOH and is an important industrial chemical and food additive.
Analysis of Furans
A furan is a heterocyclic organic compound with a five membered ring containing four carbon atoms and one oxygen atom. The furans that we analyse-for
contain groups attached to this ring and are possible products from the degradation of biomass-derived sugars.
Furfural has an aldehyde group attached to the furanic ring and has the formula OC4H3CHO. It is an important
industrial solvent and also a precursor to a number of other important furanic compounds, including furfuryl alcohol. It is a degradation
product from pentose sugars, such as xylose and arabinose.
As with some other furans and many organic acids, furfural can be inhibitory to some fermentative organisms and hydrolysis enzymes.
Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), also known as 5-furfural, contains an aldehyde and an alcohol functional group
attached to the furan ring. It can be produced
through the acid-catalysed dehydration and subsequent cyclisation of hexoses such as glucose
and mannose. HMF is also an intermediate in the production of levulinic acid
from hexoses. The functional side groups found in HMF offer a wide range of applications for which HMF can be used and transformed and it has the
potential to be a very useful platform chemical, providing it can be produced economically. HMF can also
be inhibitory to some fermentative organisms and hydrolysis enzymes.
Analysis of Organic Acids and Furans at Celignis
We can determine a number of organic acids and furans, relevant to the degradation of biomass-derived sugars, using analysis package
P22 - Organic Acids and Furans. This package is relevant to analysing the liquid outputs
from biomass pre-treatment and hydrolysis technologies. It can be used in conjunction with analysis package
P13 - Sugars and Oligossacharides in Solution to get a detailed understanding of the composition of process liquids.
This conference is being organised under the auspices of the Interreg Northwest Europe-funded THREE C Project, entitled 'Creating and sustaining Charcoal value chains to promote a Circular Carbon economy in NWE Europe'.
The conference will highlight both Irish stakeholders who are currently working in the biochar and carbon products sector, but also partners from the THREE C project (covering Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, Belgium, France and Wales, as well as Ireland) who have interesting stories and products to share.
Read about the wide variety of analysis packages we have for biochar
Click here to read about the different analysis packages that Celignis offers for the evaluation on biochars. These analyses cover properties relevant to a wide variety of applications, including soil amendment, carbon sequestration, bioenergy, and biomaterials.
For a short period we are offering two TGA analyses for the price of one!
To celebrate the arrival of our thermogravimetric (TGA) equipment, we are offering, for a limited time period, two TGA analyses for the price of one. Click here to read more about TGA analyses at Celignis and to see the various packages on offer.
To avail of this special offer please mention the code (TGA-AUGUST) in an email or when placing an order via the Celignis Database.
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