Background: Despite its semi-commercial status, ethanol production from lignocellulosics presents many complexities not yet fully solved. Since the pretreatment stage has been recognized as a complex and yield-determining step, it has been extensively studied. However, economic success of the production process also requires optimization of the biochemical conversion stage. This work addresses the search of bioreactor configurations with improved residence times for continuous enzymatic saccharification and fermentation operations. Instead of analyzing each possible configuration through simulation, we apply graphical methods to optimize the residence time of reactor networks composed of steady-state reactors. Although this can be easily made for processes described by a single kinetic expression, reactions under analysis do not exhibit this feature. Hence, the attainable region method, able to handle multiple species and its reactions, was applied for continuous reactors. Additionally, the effects of the sugars contained in the pretreatment liquor over the enzymatic hydrolysis and simultaneous saccharification and fermentation (SSF) were assessed. Results: We obtained candidate attainable regions for separate enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation (SHF) and SSF operations, both fed with pretreated corn stover. Results show that, despite the complexity of the reaction networks and underlying kinetics, the reactor networks that minimize the residence time can be constructed by using plug flow reactors and continuous stirred tank reactors. Regarding the effect of soluble solids in the feed stream to the reactor network, for SHF higher glucose concentration and yield are achieved for enzymatic hydrolysis with washed solids. Similarly, for SSF, higher yields and bioethanol titers are obtained using this substrate. Conclusions: In this work, we demonstrated the capabilities of the attainable region analysis as a tool to assess the optimal reactor network with minimum residence time applied to the SHF and SSF operations for lignocellulosic ethanol production. The methodology can be readily modified to evaluate other kinetic models of different substrates, enzymes and microorganisms when available. From the obtained results, the most suitable reactor configuration considering residence time and rheological aspects is a continuous stirred tank reactor followed by a plug flow reactor (both in SSF mode) using washed solids as substrate.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Financial support granted to F. Scott by CONICYT's scholarship program (Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica) is gratefully acknowledged. This work was funded by Innova Chile Project 208–7320 Technological Consortium Bioenercel S.A.
- Optimal reactor design
- Solids enzymatic-hydrolysis
- Ethanol fermentation
- Geometric viewpoint