BackgroundPretreatment is the critically important step for the production of ethanol from lignocelluloses. In this study, hardwood birch (Betula pendula) and softwood spruce (Norway spruce) woods were pretreated with a newly synthesized morpholinium ionic liquid, 1-H-3-methylmorpholinium chloride ([HMMorph][Cl]), followed by enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation to ethanol.Results[HMMorph][Cl] was synthesized using inexpensive raw materials, i.e., hydrochloric acid and N-methyl morpholine, following a simple process. The influence of pretreatment time (2, 3, 5, and 8 h) and temperature (120 and 140°C) in terms of hydrolysis efficiency was investigated. Glucose yields from enzymatic hydrolysis were improved from 13.7% to 45.7% and 12.9% to 51.8% after pretreatment of birch and spruce woods, respectively, under optimum pretreatment conditions (i.e., at 140°C for 3 h) as compared to those from pristine woods. Moreover, the yields of ethanol production from birch and spruce were increased to 34.8% and 44.2%, respectively, while the yields were negligible for untreated woods.ConclusionsThis study demonstrated the ability of [HMMorph][Cl] as an inexpensive agent to pretreat both softwood and hardwood.