Date of Award
Master of Science
Plant and Soil Science
With recent emphasis on development of alternatives to fossil fuels, sincere attempts are being made on finding suitable lignocellulosic feedstocks for biochemical conversion to fuels and chemicals. Sweet Sorghum is among the most widely adaptable cereal grasses, with high drought resistance, and ability to grow on low quality soils with low inputs. It is a C4 crop with high photosynthetic efficiency and biomass yield. Since sweet sorghum has many desirable traits, it has been considered as an attractive feedstock. Large scale sweet sorghum juice extraction results in excessive amounts of waste sweet sorghum bagasse (SSB), which is a promising low cost lignocellusic feed stock. The ability of two pretreatment methods namely conventional oven and microwave oven pretreatment for disrupting lignocellulosic structures of sweet sorghum bagasse with lime [Ca(OH)2] and sodium hydroxide [NaOH] was evaluated. The primary goal of this study was to determine optimal alkali pretreatment conditions to obtain higher biomass conversion (TRS yield) while achieving higher lignin reduction for biofuel production. The prime objective was achieved using central composite design (CCD) and optimization of biomass conversion and lignin removal simultaneously for each alkali separately by response surface method (RSM). Quadratic models were used to define the conditions that separately and simultaneously maximize the response variables. The SSB used in this study was composed of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin in the percentage of 36.9 + 1.6, 17.8 + 0.6, and 19.5 + 1.1, respectively. The optimal conditions for lime pretreatment in the conventional oven at 100 °C was 1.7 (% w/v) lime concentration (=0.0024 molL-1), 6.0% (w/v) SSB loading, 2.4 hr pretreatment time with predicted yields of 85.6% total biomass conversion and 35.5% lignin reduction. For NaOH pretreatment, 2% (w/v) alkali (=0.005 molL-1), 6.8% SSB loading and 2.3 hr duration was the optimal level with predicted biomass conversion and lignin reduction of 92.9% and 50.0%, respectively. More intensive pretreatment conditions removed higher amount of hemicelluloses and cellulose. Microwave based pretreatments were carried out in a CEM laboratory microwave oven (MARS 6-Xpress Microwave Reactions System, CEM Corporation, Matthews, NC) and with varying alkali concentration(0.3 - 3.7 % w/v) at varying temperatures (106.4 - 173.6 °C), and length of time (6.6 - 23.4 min). The NaOH pretreatment was optimized at 1.8 (% w/v) NaOH, 143 °C, 14 min time with predicted yields of 85.8% total biomass conversion and 78.7% lignin reduction. For lime pretreatment, 3.1% (w/v) lime, 138 °C and 17.5 min duration was the optimal level with predicted biomass conversion and lignin reduction of 79.9% and 61.1%, respectively. Results from this study were further supported by FTIR spectral interpretation and SEM images.
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