U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

New Ionic Liquids Treatment for Converting Biomass to Sugars
Published: March 22, 2010
Posted: April 07, 2010

Digestion of cellulosic biomass to release fermentable sugars remains a major challenge: current biomass treatment approaches typically involve large volumes of hazardous concentrated acids, expensive secondary enzymatic digestion, and energy intensive heating. Researchers at the DOE Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center have developed an improved chemical treatment method to liberate sugars from biomass. This approach uses a combination of ionic liquids, water, and dilute acid, resulting in the release of over 75% of the sugar molecules locked in corn stover. This approach produces fewer toxic byproducts that inhibit growth of the fermentative microbes used to convert released sugars to ethanol and other biofuels. Although the current experiments were performed at laboratory scale, potential avenues have been identified for scaling the approach for commercial development. The new results are published in the March 9th issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Reference: Binder, J. B. and R. T. Raines. 2010. "Fermentable Sugars by Chemical Hydrolysis of Biomass" Proceedings of the Natl. Academy of Sciences 107:4516-4521

Contact: Joseph Graber, SC-23.2, (301) 903-1239
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Research Area: Plant Systems and Feedstocks, Plant-Microbe Interactions
  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts
  • Research Area: DOE Bioenergy Research Centers (BRC)

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER


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