The Nikkei reports that researchers at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology have developed a simple way to dissolve cellulose, making it much easier to utilize wood scrap, weeds and other forms of biomass as raw materials for the synthesis of bioethanol.
The new procedure uses a specially formulated ionic liquid to dissolve the cellulose. It is then recovered by adding water since the two do not mix, and the cellulose separates out as a gel.
The university group developed an ionic liquid than can completely dissolve the cellulose in paper. A 10% solution of cellulose can be obtained by warming the liquid to 45° C and stirring paper in it for 30 minutes. The process goes faster at higher temperatures and a low-concentration solution of cellulose can be made even at room temperature.
The university group envisions a more efficient and low-energy method for cellulosic ethanol production that adds enzymes to the ionic liquid to decompose the dissolved cellulose into sugars in a one-step process.