Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 222222
Loughborough University

Chemical Engineering

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Ozonolysis of lignocellulosic biomass using low energy microplasma reactors

October 14

Dr Hemaka Bandulasena has been awarded £50k from Plants to Products BBSRC NIBB for proof of concept studies on pretreatement of lignocellulosic biomass using low energy microplasma reactors. This is a collaborative project with Prof David Leak of University of Bath and also supported by Perlemax Ltd.

Rising concern over depleting fossil fuel and greenhouse gas emissions from fuel combustion has led to a high level of interest in biofuel production, in particular bio-ethanol. Currently, the main producers of bioethanol use food crops as the main raw material. However, use of food sources for biofuel production is not sustainable and research efforts are now shifting to lignocellulosic biomass as a renewable source of fermentable carbohydrate which does not compete directly with food production.

In converting lignocellulosic material to ethanol or commodity chemicals, one of the main challenges is achieving good access of enzymes to cellulose, which is shielded by lignin and hemicellulose. Various pre-treatment methods are available to expose the cellulose structure, but most effective techniques are energy intensive, costly and produce fermentation inhibitors. Ozonolysis as a pretreatment method has many benefits. However, this process has received little attention due the cost of ozone production and scaling up issues. New, more cost-effective, technologies for ozone production and dispersal are emerging which mean that it is timely to ask whether ozonolysis could become a prime candidate for pretreatment of lignocellulosic biomass.

In this project, we will investigate the feasibility of applying a novel ozonolysis pre-treatment method for various lignocellulosic feedstocks. We will use a recently developed microplasma reactor for producing ozone at room temperature and atmospheric pressure that consumes less power compared to conventional methods for this purpose. To further improve the efficiency, we will integrate microbubble technology to disperse ozone produced by the reactors that will minimize wastage and neutralize any associated hazards. This will be applied to representative lignocellulosic feedstocks and products from ozonolysis will subsequently be analysed by enzymatic saccharification and chemical hydrolysis to determine the efficiency of carbohydrate release. 

 

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Department of Chemical Engineering
Loughborough University
LE11 3TU
UK

+44 (0)1509 222 533