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Design of integrated processes for a second generation biorefinery using mixed agricultural waste
Lignocellulosic biomass (agro-waste) has been recommended as the most promising feedstock for the production of bioalcohols, in the biofuel industry. Furthermore, agro-waste is well-known as the most abundant organic matter in the agricultural and forestry product processing industry. However, the challenge with utilizing agro-waste as a feedstock is its highly recalcitrant structure, which limits hydrolysis to convert the holocelluloses into fermentable sugars. Conventional pre-treatment methods such as dilute acid, alkaline, thermal, hot water and enzymatic, have been used in previous studies. The challenge with these conventional methods is the generation of residual toxicants during the pretreatment process, which inhibits a high bioalcohol yield, by reducing the microbial populations’ (fermenter) ability to be metabolically proficient during fermentation. Numerous studies have been developed to improve the engineered strains, which have shown to have an ability to reduce the inhibition and toxicity of the bioalcohols produced or by-products produced during pre-treatment, while enhancing the bioalcohol production. In the present study (chapter 5), evaluation of common conventional methods for the pretreatment of the mixed agro-waste, i.e. (˃45µm to <100µm) constituted by Citrus sinensis, Malus domestica peels, corn cobs from Zea mays and Quercus robur (oak) yard waste without a pre-rinsing step at a ratio of 1:1 at 25% (w/w) for each waste material, was undertaken, focusing on hot water pre treatment followed by dilute acid (H2SO4) pre-treatment. To further pretreat the mixed agro-waste residue, cellulases were used to further hydrolyse the pre-treated agro-waste in a single pot (batch) multi-reaction process. The TRS concentration of 0.12, 1.43 and 3.22 g/L was achieved with hot water, dilute acid and cellulases hydrolysis as sequential pretreatment steps, respectively, in a single pot multi-reaction system. Furthermore, a commercial strain was used to ascertain low (C1 to C3) and high carbon content (C4+) bioalcohol production under aerobic conditions. Multiple bioproducts were obtained within 48 to 72 h, including bioethanol and 1-Butanol, 3-methyl, which were major products for this study. However, undesirable bio-compounds such as phenolics, were detected post fermentation. Since multiple process units characterised by chemical usage and high energy intensivity have been utilized to overcome delignification and cellulolysis, a sustainable, environmental benign pretreatment process was proposed using N. mirabilis “monkey cup” fluids (extracts) to also reduce fermenter inhibitors from the delignification of mixed agrowaste; a process with minimal thermo physical chemical inputs for which a single pot multi-reaction system strategy was used. Nepenthes mirabilis extracts shown to have ligninolytic, cellulolytic and xylanolytic activities, were used as an enzyme cocktail to pretreat mixed agro-waste, subsequent to the furtherance of TRS production from the agro-waste, by further using cellulase for further hydrolysis. N. mirabilis pod extracts were determined to contained carboxylesterases (529.41±30.50 U/L), β-glucosidases (251.94±11.48 U/L) and xylanases (36.09±18.04 U/L), constituting an enzymatic cocktail with a significant potential for the reduction in total residual phenolic compounds (TRPCs). Furthermore, the results indicated that maximum concentration of TRS obtainable was 310±5.19 mg/L within 168 h, while the TRPCs were reduced from 6.25±0.18 to 4.26 ±0.09 mg/L, which was lower than that observed when conventional methods were used. Overall N. mirabilis extracts were demonstrated to have an ability to support biocatalytic processes for the conversion of agro-waste to produce fermentable TRS in a single unit facilitating multiple reactions with minimised interference with cellulase hydrolysis. Therefore, the digestive enzymes in N. mirabilis pods can be used in an integrated system for a second generation biorefinery.