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Exploring Molecular Mechanisms of Cosolvent Enhanced Biomass Deconstruction: An Overview of Recent Progress...

by Barmak Mostofian, Loukas Petridis, Charles M Cai
Publication Type
Book Chapter
Publication Date
Page Numbers
103 to 117
Publisher Name
American Chemical Society
Publisher Location
Knoxville, Tennessee, United States of America

In this chapter, we explore the mechanisms driving efficient thermochemical deconstruction and fractionation of lignocellulosic biomass in cosolvent mixtures for the production of biofuels and bioproducts. New approaches that combine molecular dynamics simulations with experimental characterization highlight the important role of cosolvents and their influence on molecular processes relevant to overcoming the natural recalcitrance of lignocellulose. From localized phase behavior on cellulose fibers to changes in lignin conformation, insights into cosolvent effects on biomass deconstruction involve understanding complex interactions between the solvent–solvent, solvent–substrate, and solvent–catalyst. Recently coordinated research efforts at multiple scales using computational tools, nano-scale imaging, and kinetic models have significantly advanced identification of high-performance cosolvents, shedding light on the mechanisms behind solvent-biomass interactions. Specifically, multifunctional cosolvents have been employed in leading biomass “solvolysis” technologies that favorably coordinate with dilute acids to solubilize and depolymerize all three primary biomass fractions of biomass: cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. As a result, recent work in studying solvent effects of multifunctional cosolvents has led to a paradigm shift toward the use of first principles to design biomass deconstruction techniques with the aim of maximizing total carbon utilization in biomass. The synergistic pairing of cosolvents with biomass deconstruction will lead scientists and engineers to overcome key technical and economic barriers of biomass processing, enabling a successful transition of the current energy landscape toward a future bioeconomy based on biomass as an alternative to petroleum.