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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Enzymatic lignocellulose hydrolysis: Improved cellulase productivity by insoluble solids recycling

Noah Weiss1, Johan Börjesson2, Lars Saaby Pedersen2 and Anne S Meyer1*

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Bioprocess Engineering, Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Lyngby, DK-2800 Kgs, Denmark

2 Novozymes A/S, Krogshøjvej 36, Bagsværd, DK-2880, Denmark

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Biotechnology for Biofuels 2013, 6:5  doi:10.1186/1754-6834-6-5

Published: 21 January 2013

Abstract

Background

It is necessary to develop efficient methods to produce renewable fuels from lignocellulosic biomass. One of the main challenges to the industrialization of lignocellulose conversion processes is the large amount of cellulase enzymes used for the hydrolysis of cellulose. One method for decreasing the amount of enzyme used is to recycle the enzymes. In this study, the recycle of enzymes associated with the insoluble solid fraction after the enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulose was investigated for pretreated corn stover under a variety of recycling conditions.

Results

It was found that a significant amount of cellulase activity could be recovered by recycling the insoluble biomass fraction, and the enzyme dosage could be decreased by 30% to achieve the same glucose yields under the most favorable conditions. Enzyme productivity (g glucose produced/g enzyme applied) increased between 30 and 50% by the recycling, depending on the reaction conditions. While increasing the amount of solids recycled increased process performance, the methods applicability was limited by its positive correlation with increasing total solids concentrations, reaction volumes, and lignin content of the insoluble residue. However, increasing amounts of lignin rich residue during the recycle did not negatively impact glucose yields.

Conclusions

To take advantage of this effect, the amount of solids recycled should be maximized, based on a given processes ability to deal with higher solids concentrations and volumes. Recycling of enzymes by recycling the insoluble solids fraction was thus shown to be an effective method to decrease enzyme usage, and research should be continued for its industrial application.