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On the Effect of Hot-Water Pretreatment in Sulfur-Free Pulping of Aspen and Wheat Straw

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journal contribution
posted on 23.12.2019 by Uula Hyväkkö, Riku Maltari, Tia Kakko, Jussi Kontro, Joona Mikkilä, Petri Kilpeläinen, Eric Enqvist, Panu Tikka, Kristiina Hildén, Paula Nousiainen, Jussi Sipilä
In modern biorefineries, low value lignin and hemicellulose fractions are produced as side streams. New extraction methods for their purification are needed in order to utilize the whole biomass more efficiently and to produce special target products. In several new applications using plant-based biomaterials, the native-type chemical and polymeric properties are desired. Especially, production of high-quality native-type lignin enables valorization of biomass entirely, thus making novel processes sustainable and economically viable. To investigate sulfur-free possibilities for so-called “lignin first” technologies, we compared alkaline organosolv, formic acid organosolv, and ionic liquid processes to simple soda “cooking” using wheat straw and aspen as raw materials. All experiments were carried out using microwave-assisted pulping approach to enable rapid heat transfer and convenient control of temperature and pressure. The main target was to evaluate the advantage of a brief hot water extraction as a pretreatment for the pulping process. Most of these novel pulping methods resulted in high-quality lignin, which may be valorized more diversely than kraft lignin. Lignin fractions were thoroughly analyzed with NMR (13C and HSQC) and gel permeation chromatography to study the quality of the collected lignin. The cellulose fractions were analyzed by determining their lignin contents and carbohydrate profiles for further utilization in cellulose-based products or biofuels.