Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology, Vol.161, No.1-8, 53-66, 2010
Bioconversion of Kraft Paper Mill Sludges to Ethanol by SSF and SSCF
Paper mill sludge is a solid waste material composed of pulp residues and ash generated from pulping and paper making processes. The carbohydrate portion of the sludge has chemical and physical characteristics similar to pulp. Because of its high carbohydrate content and well-dispersed structure, the sludges can be biologically converted to value-added products without pretreatment. In this study, two different types of paper mill sludges, primary sludge and recycle sludge, were evaluated as a feedstock for bioconversion to ethanol. The sludges were first subjected to enzymatic conversion to sugars by commercial cellulase enzymes. The enzymatic conversion was inefficient because of interference by ash in the sludges with the enzymatic reaction. The main cause was that the pH level is dictated by CaCO3 in ash, which is two units higher than the pH optimum of cellulase. To alleviate this problem, simultaneous saccharification and cofermentation (SSCF) using cellulase (Spezyme CP) and recombinant Escherichia coli (ATCC-55124), and simultaneous saccharification and fermentation (SSF) using cellulase and Saccharomyces cerevisiae (ATCC-200062) were applied to the sludges without any pretreatment. Ethanol yields of 75-81% of the theoretical maximum were obtained from the SSCF on the basis of total carbohydrates. The yield from the SSF was also found to be in the range of 74-80% on the basis of glucan. The SSCF and SSF proceeded under stable condition with the pH staying near 5.0, close to the optimum for cellulase. Decrease of pH occurred due to carbonic acid and other organic acids formed during fermentation. The ash was partially neutralized by the acids produced from the SSCF and SSF and acted as a buffer to stabilize the pH during fermentation. When the SSF and SSCF were operated in fed-batch mode, the ethanol concentration in the broth increased from 25.5 and 32.6 g/L (single feed) to 45 and 42 g/L, respectively. The ethanol concentration was limited by the tolerance of the microorganism in the case of SSCF. The ethanol yield in fed-batch operation decreased to 68% for SSCF and 70% for SSF. The high-solids condition in the bioreactor appears to create adverse effects on the cellulase reaction.