GROUNDWORK FOR INTEGRATION OF HOT WATER EXTRACTION AS A POTENTIAL PRE-PROCESS IN A BIOREFINERY FOR DOWNSTREAM CONVERSION AND NANO-FIBRILLATION
The economic competitiveness of biofuels production is highly dependent on feedstock cost, which constitutes 35-50 % of the total biofuels production cost. Economically viable feedstock pre-process has a significant influence on all the subsequent downstream processes in the biorefinery supply chain. In this work, hot water extraction (HWE) was exploited as a pre-process to initially fractionate cell wall structure of softwood Douglas fir, which is considerably more recalcitrant compared to hardwoods and agricultural feedstocks. A response surface model was developed and the highest hemicellulose extraction yield (HEY) was obtained when the temperature is 180 °C and the time is 79 min. HWE process partially removed hemicelluloses, reduced the moisture absorption and improved the thermal stability of wood. To investigate the effects of HWE pre-process on sulfite pretreatment to overcome recalcitrance of lignocellulose (SPORL), a series of SPORL with reduced combined severity factor (CSF) were conducted using HWE treated Douglas fir. Sugar analysis after enzymatic hydrolysis indicated that SPORL can be conducted at lower temperature (145 °C), shorter time (80 min), and lower acid volume (3 %), while still maintaining considerably high enzymatic digestibility (~55-60%). Deriving valuable co-products would increase the overall revenue and improve the economics of the biofuels supply chain. The feasibility of extracting cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs) from HWE treated Douglas fir by ultrasonication and CNFs’ reinforcing potentials in nylon 6 matrix were evaluated. Morphology analysis indicated that finer fibrils can be obtained by increasing ultrasonication time and/or amplitude. CNFs was found to have higher crystallinity and maintained the thermal stability compared to untreated fiber. A method of fabricating nylon 6/CNFs as-spun nanocomposite filaments using a combination of extrusion, compounding and capillary rheometer to minimize thermal degradation of CNFs was demonstrated. It was found that the nanocomposite filaments have slightly lower thermal stability and crystallinity compared to neat nylon 6 filaments. However, the incorporation of CNFs increased the tenacity and hydrophilicity of the nanocomposite filaments, indicating a potential for their use as precursor materials for textile yarns.