Technological: Development of an efficient biomass saccharification process
Overcoming lignocellulosic biomass recalcitrance followed by enzymatic hydrolysis of reactive polymeric carbohydrates (i.e., cost-efficient liberation of fermentable sugars from biomass) is perhaps the most challenging technical and economic barrier to biorefinery success. Pretreatment is among the most costly steps in biochemical conversion of biomass, accounting for up to 40% of the total processing cost. Also, it affects the costs of other operations including size reduction prior to pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation after pretreatment. Pretreatment can also strongly influence downstream costs involving detoxification if inhibitors are generated, enzymatic hydrolysis rate and enzyme loading, mixing power, product concentration, product purification, power generation, waste treatment demands, and other process variables.