Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Vol.118, No.10, 4105-4118, 2021
Transformation of lignocellulose to starch-like carbohydrates by organic acid-catalyzed pretreatment and biological detoxification
Corn dry milling provides a mature model for lignocellulose biorefinery process. To copy this technical success, a crucial step is to transform lignocellulose into starch-like carbohydrates (SLC), similar to milled corn grain and in a similar fashion to corn dry milling. The transformation process should be zero wastewater generation and sufficient fermentable sugar conservation; the product should be in solid particle form, free of toxic residues, and high enzymatic hydrolysis yield and fermentability. Here we designed and verified a SLC transformation process by (i) biodegradable oxalic acid-catalyzed pretreatment, and (ii) simultaneous biodegradation of inhibitors and oxalic acid catalyst. The oxalic acid catalyst was effective on disrupting the lignocellulose structure and also biodegradable at low pH value. The biodetoxification fungus Paecilomyces variotii FN89 was capable of degrading the furan/phenolic aldehydes and oxalic acid simultaneously and ultimately, while the fermentable sugars were well preserved. The obtained SLC from wheat straw and corn stover were similar to dry milled corn meal in terms of morphological properties, fermentable sugar contents, enzymatic hydrolysis yield, elemental contents, and free of inhibitors and acid catalyst. The bioconversion of starch-like wheat straw and corn stover produced 78.5 and 75.3 g/L of ethanol (9.9% and 9.5%, v/v) with the yield of 0.47 and 0.45 g ethanol/g cellulose/xylose, respectively, compared with 78.7 g/L (10.0%, v/v) from corn meal and the yield of 0.48 g ethanol/g starch. Mass balances suggest that the ethanol yield, wastewater generation, and elemental recycling of the SLC from lignocellulose were essentially the same as those of corn meal.