Pre-treatment is an essential step in enabling the efficient conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into biofuels and bioproducts. The most effective pretreatment methods currently available are based on rigorous thermochemical approaches that are costly and energy intensive. Here we investigated whether the common practice of ensiling grassy biomass such as sorghum can be used as a preprocessing step to increase conversion efficiency under milder pretreatment conditions. We examined the effects of replacing dry sorghum biomass with ensiled sorghum biomass on the deconstruction efficiency, process economy and carbon footprint of a lignocellulosic biorefinery that uses separation-free pretreatment with ionic liquid in conjunction with enzymatic saccharification and microbial conversion. Our results show that the use of ensiled biomass provides a 50% reduction in both the amount of ionic liquid (from 5 to 2.5% (w / w) measured by initial pretreatment loading) and the time required for enzymatic saccharification (of 72) allowed h to 24 h) without sacrificing efficiency. We show that the resulting hydrolyzate can be used to cultivate an engineered strain of Rhodosporidium toruloides > To convert 90% of the monomeric sugar into bisabolene, a promising intermediate product for biofuels and bioproducts. Overall, we estimate that replacing field-dried biomass sorghum with ensiled sorghum, combined with an ionic liquid-based deconstruction process, could lower the minimum selling price and carbon footprint of biofuel production in a biorefinery by at least 13% and 8.2%, respectively. respectively.

Graphic summary: The use of sorghum from ensiled biomass increases the efficiency of the pre-treatment of ionic liquids and reduces the production costs for biofuels and the carbon footprint

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