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Lignocellulose, one of the most abundant plants on Earth, has the potential to displace a substantial portion of the fossil fuels currently consumed within the transportation sector. Converting lignocellulose to biofuels requires the disruption of the lignin-carbohydrate complex within the plant and conversion into fermentable sugars suitable for producing fuels. Current processes require multiple steps that are time and water intensive, and utilize expensive enzyme treatments making lignocellulose a viable but costly renewable fuel source. Utilizing ionic liquids-based pretreatments to break down the lignin-carbohydrate complex and generate a product that is readily converted into fermentable sugars will improve the economies of advanced biofuels production from lignocellulose.

Technology Advancement

Sandia is developing ionic liquid (IL) based pretreatment technologies for biomass processing that increase the sugar yields from a variety of lignocellulosic feedstocks including:

  • Agriculture Waste
  • Woody Biomass
  • Mixed Feedstocks
  • Municipal Solid Waste (MSW)

Sandia researchers are investigating blending options to maximize sugar yields. Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) has the potential to be a cost effective blending agent with other lignocellulose feedstocks that will drive down the cost of biomass to biofuels conversion.


Sandia researchers have developed a feedstock agnostic ionic liquid pretreatment process that:

  • Enables more than 90% sugar recovery
  • Utilizes 1/10ththe enzyme loading of previous processes
  • Offers faster saccharification (converting complex carbohydrates to simple sugars) kinetics
  • Doesn’t require expensive, specially constructed high-pressure capital equipment
  • Recycles ionic liquid after pretreatment
  • Uses less water than current processes

Ionic Liquid Processing

Sandia National Laboratories
Publication Date
Jan 1, 2020
Agreement Type