High Gravity and High Cell Density Mitigate Some of the Fermentation Inhibitory Effects of Softwood Hydrolysates

After steam pretreatment of lignocellulosic substrates the fermentation of the biomass derived sugars to ethanol is typically problematic because of both the generally low sugar concentrations that can be supplied and the presence of naturally occurring and process derived inhibitors. As the majority of the inhibitory materials are usually associated with the hemicellulose rich, water soluble component, this fraction was supplemented with glucose to simulate high solids, un-detoxified substrate to see if a high gravity/high cell consistency approach might better cope with inhibition. Several yeast strains were assessed, with the Tembec T1, T2 and Lallemand LYCC 6469 strains showing the greatest ethanol productivity and yield. The addition of supplemental glucose enabled the faster and quantitatively higher removal of hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF). High cell density could provide effective fermentation at high sugar concentrations while enhancing inhibitor reduction. A 77% ethanol yield could be achieved using strain LYCC 6469 after 48 h at high cell density. It was apparent that a high cell density approach improved ethanol production by all of the evaluated yeast strains.