Carbohydrate stabilization extends the kinetic limits of chemical polysaccharide depolymerization

Polysaccharide depolymerization is an essential step for valorizing lignocellulosic biomass. In inexpensive systems such as pure water or dilute acid mixtures, carbohydrate monomer degradation rates exceed hemicellulose—and especially cellulose—depolymerization rates at most easily accessible temperatures, limiting sugar yields. Here, we use a reversible stabilization of xylose and glucose by acetal formation with formaldehyde to alter this kinetic paradigm, preventing sugar dehydration to furans and their subsequent degradation. During a harsh organosolv pretreatment in the presence of formaldehyde, over 90% of xylan in beech wood was recovered as diformylxylose (compared to 16% xylose recovery without formaldehyde). The subsequent depolymerization of cellulose led to carbohydrate yields over 70% and a final concentration of ~5 wt%, whereas the same conditions without formaldehyde gave a yield of 28%. This stabilization strategy pushes back the longstanding kinetic limits of polysaccharide depolymerization and enables the recovery of biomass-derived carbohydrates in high yields and concentrations.

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Nature Chemistry, 10, 12, 1222-1228
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 Record created 2018-09-17, last modified 2019-03-17

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