Valuable biomass conversion processes are highly dependent on the use of effective pretreatments for lignocellulose degradation and enzymes for saccharification. Among the nowadays available treatments, chemical delignification represents a promising alternative to physical-mechanical treatments. Banana is one of the most important fruit crops around the world. After harvesting, it generates large amounts of rachis, a lignocellulosic residue, that could be used for second generation ethanol production, via saccharification and fermentation. In the present study, eight chemical pretreatments for lignin degradation (organosolv
based on organic solvents, sodium hypochlorite, hypochlorous acid, hydrogen peroxide, alkaline hydrogen peroxide, and some combinations thereof) have been tested on banana rachis and the effects evaluated in terms of lignin removal, material losses, and chemical composition of pretreated material. Pretreatment based on lignin oxidation have demonstrated to reach the highest delignification yield, also in terms of monosaccharides recovery. In fact, all the delignified samples were then saccharified with enzymes (cellulase and beta-glucosidase) and hydrolysis efficiency was evaluated in terms of final sugars recovery before fermentation. Analysis of Fourier transform infrared spectra (FTIR) has been carried out on treated samples, in order to better understand the structural effects of delignification on lignocellulose. Active chlorine oxidations, hypochlorous acid in particular, were the best effective for lignin removal obtaining in the meanwhile the most promising cellulose-to-glucose conversion.
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