Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Food Science (PhD)

Degree Level



Food Science


Danielle Julie Carrier

Committee Member

Ed Clausen

Second Committee Member

Thomas A. Costello

Third Committee Member

Navam S. Hettiarachchy

Fourth Committee Member

Ruben O. Morawicki

Fifth Committee Member

Steven C. Ricke


Production of fuels and chemicals from a renewable and inexpensive resource such as lignocellulosic biomass is a lucrative and sustainable option for the advanced biofuel and bio-based chemical platform. Agricultural residues constitute the bulk of potential feedstock available for cellulosic fuel production. On a global scale, rice straw is the largest source of agricultural residues and is therefore an ideal crop model for biomass deconstruction studies. Lignocellulosic biofuel production involves the processes of biomass conditioning, enzymatic saccharification, microbial fermentation and ethanol distillation, and one of the major factors affecting its techno-economic feasibility is the biomass recalcitrance to enzymatic saccharification. Preconditioning of lignocellulosic biomass, using chemical, physico-chemical, mechanical and biological pretreatments, is often practiced such that biomass becomes available to downstream processing. Pretreatments, such as dilute acid and hot water, are effective means of biomass conversion. However, despite their processing importance, preconditioning biomass also results in the production of carbohydrate and lignin degradation products that are inhibitory to downstream saccharification enzymes.

The saccharification enzyme cocktail is made up of endo-cellulase, exo-cellulase and beta-glucosidase enzymes, whose role is to cleave cellulose polymers into glucose monomers. Specifically, endo-cellulase and exo-cellulase enzymes cleave cellulose chains in the middle and at the end, resulting in cellobiose molecules, which are hydrolyzed into glucose by beta-glucosidase. Unfortunately, degradation compounds generated during pretreatment inhibit the saccharification enzyme cocktail. Various research groups have identified specific classes of inhibitors formed during biomass pretreatment and have studied their inhibitory effect on the saccharification cocktail. These various research groups prepared surrogate solutions in an attempt to mimic pretreatment hydrolyzates. No group has yet attempted to elucidate the inhibitory action of compounds isolated from pretreatment hydrolyzates. Elucidating the inhibition of cellulases using actual biomass hydrolyzates would offer insights as to which inhibitors, formed during a pretreatment, are key in causing inhibition. Knowing the key inhibitor(s) would allow for the development of processing conditions that minimize their production or of their removal through hydrolyzate detoxification methods.

This research has characterized various chemical compounds released during dilute acid and hot water pretreatment of rice straw and has evaluated their inhibitory effects on endo-cellulase, exo-cellulase and & beta-glucosidase enzymes. The hot water pretreatment hydrolyzate, generated at 220 °C and 52 min, was found to be particularly inhibitory to exo- and endo-cellulases, and was chosen for further evaluation. This hot water hydrolyzate was fractionated using centrifugal partition chromatography (CPC) and grouped into furans, organic acids, phenolics, monomeric and oligomeric sugars. When these fractions were incubated with exo-cellulase, it was determined that fractions containing acetic acid and phenolics were highly inhibitory, resulting in 92 % and 87 % inhibition of initial hydrolysis rates, respectively. This study proposes a new approach for identifying key inhibitory compounds in biomass prehydrolyzates, eventually paving the way for developing strategies to the improve the enzymatic saccharification efficiency of lignocellulosic biomass.