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CO2 in biomass pre-treatment

By Chemical Engineering |

Ionic liquids are being investigated as a way to break down cellulosic plant material in biofuels-production processes. A significant hurdle to their use is the fact that ionic liquids are toxic to the microbes used in biofuel production. Researchers from Lawrence Berkeley and Sandia National Laboratories, working at the Joint Bioenergy Institute (JBEI; Emeryville, Calif.; www.jbei.org), have found that adding CO2 during the pretreatment step can neutralize the toxicity of the ionic liquids by adjusting the alkaline pH. Because the use of CO2 as a reversible method to adjust pH could eliminate the need to separate and purify the biomass after pretreatment, the researchers say the CO2-enhanced process could reduce costs by 50% or more compared to traditional biomass-pretreatment techniques.
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