Comparison of Processed and Non-Processed Biomass Digestion

Richard Bruce Clark, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

To my family, my friends, my mentors, and everybody else who supported me along the way.


Lignocellulosic ethanol is the main focus of second-generation biofuels [1]. Because cellulose is the most abundant organic material on earth, second-generation biofuels are a more sustainable option than the classical first-generation biofuels that use foodstuffs as the main feedstock in ethanol production [1]. Furthermore, biofuel can be produced not only from unprocessed biomass such as corn husks but also from processed material like paper [1]. Ionic liquids have shown to be quite effective in dissolving naturally occurring, and traditionally insoluble, polymers such as cellulose into solution, and cellulase enzymes have been shown to effectively digest cellulose into simple sugars [2]. This paper covers the results of a series of experiments which attempt to analyze the thermodynamics and yields of microwaveassisted digestion of biomass, as well as the performance of the protic ionic liquids, triethylammonium bisulfate (TEA-BS) and triethylammonium triflate (TEA-OTF), and the cellulase enzyme from Trichoderma reesei in assisting in these digestions. This paper discusses the metrics of ethanol content obtained using processed and unprocessed biomass, ionic liquids, and cellulase enzymes.