The limitations of the current biorefinery process utilizing stirred-tank reactors for the enzymatic step include poor mixing in the case of high biomass loadings, additional steps for the product separation, and a long reaction time. In this study the hydrothermal pretreatment and the enzymatic hydrolysis of the lignocellulosic biomass were combined in one fixed-bed reactor. The influence of the shear forces during recirculation and enzyme stability at elevated temperatures were investigated. It has been shown that the shear forces resulting from pumping have a negligible effect on enzyme activity. However, large pressure drops reduce the enzyme activity significantly. Furthermore, the enzyme stability was significantly increased at elevated temperatures (60°C) by applying static pressures up to 200 bar (56% residual activity at 60°C after 24 h). This is beneficial for the process as a higher temperature accelerates the reaction. Further improvement of the overall process efficiency was achieved by increasing the solid-to-water ratio and circulation of the enzyme solution. At a biomass content of 7%, a glucose concentration of 61 g l-1 and a yield of 85% was achieved. The integrated process was first done on a laboratory scale (50 ml). At 100 bar, 60°C and 10% biomass loading an increased initial reaction rate was observed. However, this effect was followed by the stagnation of the glucose yield as one of the enzymes, Novozyme 188, showed no remarkable stabilization with pressure. Nevertheless, an overall glucose yield of 40% was achieved after 5.5 h, compared to 14 h under normal pressure and 50°C.
©2011 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston