Abstract: Aiming to understand the importance of debarking on the controlled utilization of phenolic-rich willow biomass, biobutanol was produced from it by using Clostridium acetobutylicum. Acid-catalysed steam explosion and enzymatic hydrolysis (EH) were investigated before the acetone-butanol-ethanol (ABE) fermentation.
The hydrolysable sugar yield and ABE fermentation efficiency were found to decline progressively from willow wood (WW) to HWE WB (hot water extracted willow biomass), WB (willow biomass) and the WW + HWE (willow wood plus the artificial willow bark water extracts), indicating that the pre-removal of water extracts or the bark can significantly improve ABE yield. Notably, the ABE productivity of WW achieved 12.7 g/L at the solvent yield of 31%, and the butanol concentration (i.e., 8.5 g/L) generated by WW is relatively high among the reported lignocellulosic-derived biomass. Additionally, it is hypothesized that under acidic conditions and high temperatures the fructose present in willow water extracts form hydroxymethylfurfural during steam explosion, which then spontaneously condenses with phenolic substances of willow bark to form a solid furanic precipitate. The formed furanic precipitates play inhibitory role in the enzymatic hydrolysis and are thereby deleterious to the ABE fermentation.