Impact of cultivar selection and process optimization on ethanol yield from different varieties of sugarcane

Benjamin, Yuda ; Garcia-Aparicio, Maria. P. ; Gorgens, Johann. F. (2014-04)

Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund.

The original publication is available at


Background: The development of ‘energycane’ varieties of sugarcane is underway, targeting the use of both sugar juice and bagasse for ethanol production. The current study evaluated a selection of such ‘energycane’ cultivars for the combined ethanol yields from juice and bagasse, by optimization of dilute acid pretreatment optimization of bagasse for sugar yields. Method: A central composite design under response surface methodology was used to investigate the effects of dilute acid pretreatment parameters followed by enzymatic hydrolysis on the combined sugar yield of bagasse samples. The pressed slurry generated from optimum pretreatment conditions (maximum combined sugar yield) was used as the substrate during batch and fed-batch simultaneous saccharification and fermentation (SSF) processes at different solid loadings and enzyme dosages, aiming to reach an ethanol concentration of at least 40 g/L. Results: Significant variations were observed in sugar yields (xylose, glucose and combined sugar yield) from pretreatment-hydrolysis of bagasse from different cultivars of sugarcane. Up to 33% difference in combined sugar yield between best performing varieties and industrial bagasse was observed at optimal pretreatment-hydrolysis conditions. Significant improvement in overall ethanol yield after SSF of the pretreated bagasse was also observed from the best performing varieties (84.5 to 85.6%) compared to industrial bagasse (74.5%). The ethanol concentration showed inverse correlation with lignin content and the ratio of xylose to arabinose, but it showed positive correlation with glucose yield from pretreatment-hydrolysis. The overall assessment of the cultivars showed greater improvement in the final ethanol concentration (26.9 to 33.9%) and combined ethanol yields per hectare (83 to 94%) for the best performing varieties with respect to industrial sugarcane. Conclusions: These results suggest that the selection of sugarcane variety to optimize ethanol production from bagasse can be achieved without adversely affecting juice ethanol and cane yield, thus maintaining first generation ethanol production levels while maximizing second generation ethanol production.

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