Technology that is commercially feasible for the transformation of lignocellulosic biomass into ethanol promises a series of gains to the sector. The hydrolysis of sugarcane bagasse alone, for example, may increase the bioethanol yield from sugarcane by 40%, in relation to current standards of plant juice fermentation.
A production increase that brings with it an important reduction of the environmental impact caused by the sugarcane industry. However to obtain results such as this, it is necessary (among other issues) to make an in depth study of the biosynthesis of the enzymatic complexes of cellulases, the pre-treatment of the biomass, the hydrolysis of the pre-treated bagasse, the fermentation of the pentoses and their conversion into ethanol. To better understand the action mechanisms of these phenomena and develop new ethanol production technologies, the Brazilian Bioethanol Science and Technology Laboratory – CTBE, will develop a Pilot Plant for Process Development (PPDP).
The CTBE’s PPDP will be initially constituted by six conceptually integrated process modules, but with a high degree of operational flexibility (unitary operation possibilities). They are:
1) physical treatment of lignocellulosic material
2) physical-chemical treatment of lignocellulosic material
3) production of microorganisms (fungi yeasts and bacteria)
4) enzymatic hydrolysis
5) extraction and purification
6) alcoholic fermentation
The existence of units such as the PPDP enzymatic hydrolysis will enable the experimental reproduction of processes and phenomena related to this technology in a more representative scale (semi-industrial). By doing this, apart from more significant scientific results, one hopes to also obtain a larger approximation between the scientific and the industrial communities of the sector.
This makes PPDP a project that characterizes CTBE as a national laboratory, since it:
CTBE will have at its disposal a number of laboratories for theoretic-experimental study together with the PPDP. These installations will enable the follow-up of and interaction with work carried out on a pilot scale
It is worthwhile emphasizing that the main research developed in the PPDP is going to deal with the development of economically viable routes in critical areas of the hydrolysis technology. These areas will cover: the physical and thermochemical pre-treatment of the lignocellulosic material, the production of enzymes, the separation and recuperation of the lignin and the fermentation of pentoses.
Finally, the pilot plant will enable the development of parametric studies, to assess the technical-economic and environmental performance of the processes. Advanced industrial plant models will be considered in these cases within the technological concept of biorefinery.