Intensification of hemicellulose hot-water extraction from spruce wood by parameter tuning

Jens Eric Christian Krogell

    Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


    The growing population on earth along with diminishing fossil deposits and the climate change debate calls out for a better utilization of renewable, bio-based materials. In a biorefinery perspective, the renewable biomass is converted into many different products such as fuels, chemicals, and materials, quite similar to the petroleum refinery industry. Since forests cover about one third of the land surface on earth, ligno-cellulosic biomass is the most abundant renewable resource available. The natural first step in a biorefinery is separation and isolation of the different compounds the biomass is comprised of. The major components in wood are cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin, all of which can be made into various end-products. Today, focus normally lies on utilizing only one component, e.g., the cellulose in the Kraft pulping process. It would be highly desirable to utilize all the different compounds, both from an economical and environmental point of view. The separation process should therefore be optimized. Hemicelluloses can partly be extracted with hot-water prior to pulping. Depending in the severity of the extraction, the hemicelluloses are degraded to various degrees. In order to be able to choose from a variety of different end-products, the hemicelluloses should be as intact as possible after the extraction. The main focus of this work has been on preserving the hemicellulose molar mass throughout the extraction at a high yield by actively controlling the extraction pH at the high temperatures used. Since it has not been possible to measure pH during an extraction due to the high temperatures, the extraction pH has remained a “black box”. Therefore, a high-temperature in-line pH measuring system was developed, validated, and tested for hot-water wood extractions. One crucial step in the measurements is calibration, therefore extensive efforts was put on developing a reliable calibration procedure. Initial extractions with wood showed that the actual extraction pH was ~0.35 pH units higher than previously believed. The measuring system was also equipped with a controller connected to a pump. With this addition it was possible to control the extraction to any desired pH set point. When the pH dropped below the set point, the controller started pumping in alkali and by that the desired set point was maintained very accurately. Analyses of the extracted hemicelluloses showed that less hemicelluloses were extracted at higher pH but with a higher molar-mass. Monomer formation could, at a certain pH level, be completely inhibited. Increasing the temperature, but maintaining a specific pH set point, would speed up the extraction without degrading the molar-mass of the hemicelluloses and thereby intensifying the extraction. The diffusion of the dissolved hemicelluloses from the wood particle is a major part of the extraction process. Therefore, a particle size study ranging from 0.5 mm wood particles to industrial size wood chips was conducted to investigate the internal mass transfer of the hemicelluloses. Unsurprisingly, it showed that hemicelluloses were extracted faster from smaller wood particles than larger although it did not seem to have a substantial effect on the average molar mass of the extracted hemicelluloses. However, smaller particle sizes require more energy to manufacture and thus increases the economic cost. Since bark comprises 10 – 15 % of a tree, it is important to also consider it in a biorefinery concept. Spruce inner and outer bark was hot-water extracted separately to investigate the possibility to isolate the bark hemicelluloses. It was showed that the bark hemicelluloses comprised mostly of pectic material and differed considerably from the wood hemicelluloses. The bark hemicelluloses, or pectins, cold be extracted at lower temperatures than the wood hemicelluloses. A chemical characterization, done separately on inner and outer bark, showed that inner bark contained over 10 % stilbene glucosides that could be extracted already at 100 °C with aqueous acetone.
    Original languageUndefined/Unknown
    Print ISBNs978-952-12-3201-5
    Electronic ISBNs978-952-12-3202-2
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


    • Biorefinery
    • wood hemicelluloses
    • galactoglucomannans (GGM)
    • pressurized hot-water extraction (PHWE)
    • High-temperature pH
    • pH calibration
    • diffusion
    • Molar mass
    • Hemicellulose hydrolysis
    • Spruce bark
    • Extraction kinetics

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