Love-hate relationship of solvent and water leads to better biomass breakup

Read the full story from Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory used neutron scattering and supercomputing to better understand how an organic solvent and water work together to break down plant biomass, creating a pathway to significantly improve the production of renewable biofuels and bioproducts.

The discovery, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sheds light on a previously unknown nanoscale mechanism that occurs during biomass deconstruction and identifies optimal temperatures for the process.

Associated journal article: Sai Venkatesh Pingali, Micholas Dean Smith, Shih-Hsien Liu, Takat B. Rawal, Yunqiao Pu, Riddhi Shah, Barbara R. Evans, Volker S. Urban, Brian H. Davison, Charles M. Cai, Arthur J. Ragauskas, Hugh M. O’Neill, Jeremy C. Smith, Loukas Petridis (2020). “Deconstruction of biomass enabled by local demixing of cosolvents at cellulose and lignin surfaces.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117 (29) 16776-16781; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1922883117

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