A comprehensive review of the literature shows that enzyme hydrolysis efficiency decreases with increased solids loadings at constant enzyme:cellulose ratios for pretreated lignocellulosic substrates. In seeking a mechanistic explanation for this phenomenon, we found that a nitrogen atmosphere enhances enzyme hydrolysis and minimizes the decrease in glucose yields as solids loadings are increased in an agitated bioreactor. For liquid hot water pretreated corn stover, at solids loadings of both 100 and 200 g/L and hydrolyzed for 72 hr in a 1 L bioreactor at pH 5.0 with 3.6 mg protein per g biomass, glucose yields were 55% in a nitrogen atmosphere versus 45% in air with agitation and about 34% without agitation. While mixing promotes biomass/enzyme contact and disperses sugars released during hydrolysis that would otherwise cause product inhibition, nitrogen gas displaces air, avoiding deactivation of cellulases by oxygen. The nitrogen effect points to a facile approach of enhancing hydrolysis at high solids loadings.


This is the author-accepted manuscript of A.C. Freitas dos Santos, E. Ximenes, D.N. Thompson, A.E. Ray, R. Szeto, K. Erk, B.S. Dien, and M.R. Ladisch, “Effect of using a nitrogen atmosphere on enzyme hydrolysis at high corn stover loadings in an agitated reactor,” Biotechnology Progress, 26, 6, e3059 (2020). The version of record is available at DOI: 10.1002/btpr.3059.

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