AMBITION will develop novel, ground-breaking, economically and energetically efficient biomass pre-treatment options for the selective fractionation of polymeric components from biomass.
These processes are based on non-hazardous catalysts and/or green solvents in order to obtain a simultaneous reduction of both the amount of hydrolytic enzymes required for cellulose hydrolysis and of the fermentation inhibitors produced. The co-valorisation of the non-polysaccharise fraction of biomass (namely lignin) will also be pursued in order to generate additional value.
Two types of processes will be performed:
- Catalytic amounts of ionic liquids (ILs) in water will be explored to drive the direct conversion of hemocellulosic polysaccharides into sugars and to yield an easily digestible solid containing low crystallinity cellulose and upgradable lignin
- The organosolv approach will be explored to selectively remove and depolymerize lignin to yield an easily digestible polysaccharide containing solid
Whenever required, streams will be purified/separated using CO2 extraction, resins and or novel membrane concepts to obtain lignin and pure sugars streams in order to compare the impact of such downstream processing on overall economics.
R&D activities will be based on the study of two model lignocellulosic residues, one from agricultural origin (wheat straw), and the other from forest origin (eucalyptus), due to their European relevance. If required, other feedstocks or mixtures, namely softwood residues may also be tested for benchmarking the developed process performance.