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Bioresource Technology
Volume 330, 2021, 124969

Co-production of ethanol and cellulose nanocrystals through self-cycling fermentation of wood pulp hydrolysate

Jie Wanga, Michael Chaea, Dawit Beyenea, Dominic Sauvageaub, David C. Bresslera

Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton T6G 2P5, Canada.


A promising approach to help offset production costs for the cellulosic ethanol industry is to improve ethanol productivity while simultaneously generating value-added by-products. This study reports integration of an advanced fermentation approach (self-cycling fermentation) with the production of cellulose nanocrystals. Specifically, wood pulp was enzymatically hydrolyzed to yield dissolved sugars, which were fed to a self-cycling fermentation system for ethanol production, and residual solids were used for cellulose nanocrystals production via acid hydrolysis. Self-cycling fermentation achieved stable ethanol production for 10 cycles with significantly greater productivity than batch operation: ethanol volumetric productivity increased by 63–95% and annual ethanol productivity by 96 ± 5%. Additionally, the enzyme hydrolysis approach employed did not impede ethanol fermentation, and the cellulose nanocrystals generated displayed properties consistent with previous studies. Taken together, these results highlight the potential of this co-production strategy to produce both cellulosic ethanol and cellulose nanocrystals from a single feedstock.

Keywords: Self-cycling fermentation, Sequential sugar utilization, Cellulosic ethanol, Cellulose nanocrystals, Biorefinery.

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