Biomass dissolution

Because of the constantly depleting fossil sources of energy and hydrocarbons, the valorisation of renewable feedstock is going to gain further importance. However, when employing renewables as energy and chemical sources, care should be taken to avoid the competition with food production. In this light, one possibility would be to use leftovers from food production and forestry for the manufacturing of chemicals. To date, humankind still lacks processes utilizing biopolymers that would meet the ecological, economical and/or technical challenges of the future. To satisfy these criteria, there is a need for radically new approaches, which could only be achieved by employing innovative materials.

Ionic liquids (ILs) established themselves as good non-derivatizing solvent for multitude of natural polymers. This opens an access to fairly concentrated solutions of biopolymers, e.g. cellulose, thus offering significant advantages for the process engineers. The advantages that ILs bring compared to “normal” solvents are following:

  • as polar solvents, especially with anions possessing high hydrogen-bonding abilities, they allow fast dissolution in high concentrations;
  • in most of cases they don´t require pre-treatment of biomass prior to dissolution;
  • the dissolution is not accompanied by chemical modification of fibre, simplifying the procedure of recovery of the solute;
  • they are often characterized with much lower toxicity than most of other solvents used for biopolymer dissolution;
  • their non-volatile nature minimizes the risk of hazards linked to air-borne exposure;
  • they are non-flammable;
  • many ILs have a good thermal stability.

As a consequence, a lot of research nowadays is performed using ILs as solvents for lignocellulosic feedstock, cyclodextrin, lactose, chitin, keratin, silk, collagen, to name just a few.

On request we will provide the information on which combinations are possible as well as compounds for testing. If there is no information on solubility of a specific biopolymer in our database, we can identify the suitable candidates from the pool of over 1.000 tailor made ionic liquids. Have we piqued your interest? Then feel free to contact us.