Exposure of cellulosic biomass to temperatures of about 120-210 degrees C can remove most of the hemicellulose and produce cellulose-rich solids from which high glucose yields are possible with cellulase enzymes. Furthermore, the use of dilute sulfuric acid in this pretreatment operation can increase recovery of hemicellulose sugars substantially to about 85-95% of the maximum possible versus only about 65% if no acid is employed. The use of small-diameter tubes makes it possible to employ high solids concentrations similar to those preferred for commercial operations, with rapid heat-up, good temperature control, and accurate closure of material balances. Mixed reactors can be employed to pretreat larger amounts of biomass than possible in such small-diameter tubes, but solids concentrations are limited to about 15% or less to provide uniform temperatures. Pretreatment of large amounts of biomass at high solids concentrations is best carried out using direct steam injection and rapid pressure release, but closure of material balances in such "steam gun" devices is more difficult. Although flow of water alone or containing dilute acid is not practical commercially, such flow-through configurations provide valuable insight into biomass deconstruction kinetics not possible in the batch tubes, mixed reactors, or steam gun systems.
Yang, B., & Wyman, C. E. (2009). Dilute acid and autohydrolysis pretreatment. Methods in Molecular Biology (Clifton, N.J.). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-60761-214-8_8