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Enzyme Research
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 787532, 17 pages
Review Article

Chemical and Physicochemical Pretreatment of Lignocellulosic Biomass: A Review

1Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, Tallahassee, FL 32312, USA
2Department of Biotechnology, Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai 600036, India

Received 26 December 2010; Accepted 18 March 2011

Academic Editor: Praveen Vadlani

Copyright © 2011 Gary Brodeur et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Overcoming the recalcitrance (resistance of plant cell walls to deconstruction) of lignocellulosic biomass is a key step in the production of fuels and chemicals. The recalcitrance is due to the highly crystalline structure of cellulose which is embedded in a matrix of polymers-lignin and hemicellulose. The main goal of pretreatment is to overcome this recalcitrance, to separate the cellulose from the matrix polymers, and to make it more accessible for enzymatic hydrolysis. Reports have shown that pretreatment can improve sugar yields to higher than 90% theoretical yield for biomass such as wood, grasses, and corn. This paper reviews different leading pretreatment technologies along with their latest developments and highlights their advantages and disadvantages with respect to subsequent hydrolysis and fermentation. The effects of different technologies on the components of biomass (cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin) are also reviewed with a focus on how the treatment greatly enhances enzymatic cellulose digestibility.