The fractionation of lignocellulosic feedstock into its major components with high purity represents an important commercialization milestone in the transformation of lignocellulosic forest derived products into fuels and commodity chemicals. A comparison between the traditionally used batch reactor and loop reactor systems demonstrates that improved dissolution of hemicelluloses and lignin are obtained using switchable ionic liquids in a loop reactor system which facilitates decreased heat and mass transfer restrictions. The treatment of birch chips using switchable ionic liquid (SIL) based on 1,8-diazabicyclo-[5.4.0]-undec-7-ene, CO2 and diethanolamine at 120 °C for 30 h in a loop reactor resulted in 24% loss of original weight of wood corresponding to dissolution of 52 wt.% of hemicelluloses and 42 wt.% of lignin, respectively, as opposed to 20% weight loss corresponding to 43 wt.% dissolution of hemicelluloses and 38 wt.% of lignin in the batch system. The non-dissolved material obtained from both reactors was efficiently fibrillated and softened cellulose fibres. The flow of switchable ionic liquid through the loop reactor and agitation of the chips enhanced the dissolution of hemicelluloses and lignin. The dissolved fractions recovered from spent SIL after treatment contained both hemicelluloses and lignin.
- Switchable ionic liquids (SILs)
- Loop reactor
- Batch reactor
- Wood fractionation
- Birch chips