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Visualization of plant cell wall deconstruction during chemical pretreatment process
Ever increasing global demands for energy and concerns on our environment have permitted increased demand for utilization of lignocellulosic biomass to chemicals and fuels. However, the natural recalcitrance of plant cell walls resulting from complex arrangement and distribution of heterogeneous components impedes its conversion. To overcome the obstacle, low-cost and effective pretreatment technologies are required by opening the rigid cell wall structure to be accessible. In the present work, a series of microscopies combined with wet chemical analysis were carried out: 1) to interpreting the cell wall ultrastructure of lignocellulosic biomass; 2) to visualizing and digging out the dynamic changes of plant cell walls during dilute acid, alkali and ionic liquid pretreatments; and 3) to evaluating the influence of the morphological and compositional changes on enzymatic digestibility. The results showed that the architecture and topochemical distribution of lignocellulosic biomass varied between different species and cell type. The microscopic approaches can provide visual evidence of architecture and topochemical changes of lignocellulosic biomass during pretreatment process simultaneously at multi-scale. To reach the goal of producing cost-competitive bio-products from biomass, these new findings at cellular and subcellular level must be translated and integrated into the conversion processes.