Polar solvents enhance the efficiency of microwave pre-treatment of woody biomass

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Microwave pre-treatment of woody biomass may be the key to unlocking an energy efficient process for the production of renewable chemicals and fuels. Here we investigated the dipolar polarisation mechanism of polar solvents, ranging from dilute aqueous solutions of ethylene glycol, isopropyl alcohol, formaldehyde and water-only, to improve the efficiency of MW pre-treatment of woody biomass. The optimal conditions were 3.7 wt% FA solution for 10 min at 180 °C, where heating rate was accelerated by 50%, saccharification of biomass increased by 56% and stabilised lignin monomers were produced compared to water-only. Autoclave pre-treatment of woody biomass released 3 to 6 times less sugar yield in the presence of water-only and 3.7 wt% FA compared to MW irradiation. Our efficient method can potentially produce three streams of building blocks – cellulose fibres, solvated hemicellulose and stabilised lignin – for transformation into renewable products.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106281
Number of pages8
JournalBiomass and Bioenergy
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Biomass
  • Microwave chemistry
  • Molecular dynamics
  • Reaction mechanism
  • Solvent effects

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