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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Lexington, Kentucky » Forage-animal Production Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #304035

Title: Pretreatment of lignocellulosic biomass using Fenton chemistry

item KATO, DAWN - University Of Kentucky
item ELIA, NOELIA - University Of Kentucky
item Flythe, Michael
item LYNN, BERT - University Of Kentucky

Submitted to: Bioresource Technology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/29/2014
Publication Date: 4/5/2014
Citation: Kato, D., Elia, N.M., Flythe, M.D., Lynn, B.C. 2014. Pretreatment of lignocellulosic biomass using Fenton chemistry. Bioresource Technology. 162:273-278.

Interpretive Summary: Plant biomass, like miscanthus (Miscanthus giganteus), switchgrass (Pancium virgatum), wheat straw (Triticum aestivum), or corn stover (Zea mays), can be converted into alcohols for fuel. The biomass carbohydrates (e.g. cellulose, hemicellulose) can be used to grow bacteria that produce biofuels. However, the lignin that is also in the biomass interferes with carbohydrate availability and must be removed or modified to improve fermentation and growth by the bacteria. These results showed that lignin could be disrupted by the Fenton reaction, a chemical reaction that utilizes hydrogen peroxide and iron chloride. When the plant biomass was treated with this chemistry, the available carbohydrate was increased by more than 300%. There was a corresponding 300% increase in fermentation by the bacteria. These results indicated that Fenton chemistry could be used to improve biofuel production from plant biomass.

Technical Abstract: Pretreatment is a necessary step in “biomass to biofuel conversion” due to the recalcitrant nature of lignocellulosic biomass. White-rot fungi utilize peroxidases and hydrogen peroxide (in vivo Fenton chemistry) to degrade lignin. In an attempt to mimic this process, solution phase Fenton chemistry (10 g biomass, 200 mL 6% hydrogen peroxide solution, 200 mL 500 mg iron chloride tetrahydrate (aq)) was applied to four different biomass feedstocks. An enzymatic saccharification of Fenton pretreated biomass showed an average 312% increase relative to untreated control across all four feedstocks (P < 0.05, statistically significant). A microbial fermentation of the same Fenton pretreated biomass showed a three-fold increase in gas production upon a sequential co-culture with C. thermocellum and C. beijerinckii. These results demonstrate the use of solution phase Fenton chemistry as a viable pretreatment method to make cellulose more bioavailable for microbial biofuel conversion.