Novel Separation Technology for Cellulosic Sugar Biorefineries
Award last edited on: 8/12/2016

Sponsored Program
Awarding Agency
Total Award Amount
Award Phase
Solicitation Topic Code
Principal Investigator
Rodrigo E Teixeira

Company Information

Hyrax Energy Inc (AKA: Hyrax)

2441 Union Street
San Diego, CA 92101
   (914) 708-0680
Location: Single
Congr. District: 52
County: San Diego

Phase I

Contract Number: 1314699
Start Date: 7/1/2013    Completed: 12/31/2013
Phase I year
Phase I Amount
This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will develop a novel means for isolating solutes including fermentable sugars from ionic liquids. Ionic liquids are the only known solvent for woody biomass and have been shown to support the breakdown of cellulose to fermentable sugars with yields exceeding 90%. However, commercialization of an ionic liquid-based biorefinery process has been impeded by the lack of a technology for separating fermentable sugars from ionic liquid with high recovery of the ionic liquid. The present project will use unique physical properties of ionic liquids and water to effect separation of sugars from ionic liquids with less than 1% of the ionic liquid being lost in the sugar product.

The broader impact/commercial potential of this project spans several strategically important industries including fuels, chemicals, plastics and other materials. Most current and pending renewable routes to these industries rely on fermentable sugars as a feedstock. However, sugars are presently only available from corn, sugarcane and other crops that compete with our food supply, driving up prices particularly affecting lower income societies. Instead, the present project will develop the pathway to a cost effective biorefinery process that produces sugars from non-food plant material.

Phase II

Contract Number: 1456094
Start Date: 3/1/2015    Completed: 2/28/2017
Phase II year
(last award dollars: 2017)
Phase II Amount

The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research Phase II project will be the development of an alternative, renewable route to fuels and chemicals that is based on biomass that does not compete with the food supply. The process will use underutilized feedstocks such as corn stover and forestry residue to produce fermentable sugars, which can be converted into various raw materials and finished products. The project will add to the scientific understanding of ionic liquid bioprocessing and has the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stimulate rural job creation.The technical objective of this Phase II research project is to develop an integrated process for converting lignocellulosic biomass into fermentable sugars. The process uses ionic liquids that dissolve biomass and afford monomeric sugars at high yields via a reaction that is both simple and fast. What is lacking is an affordable method for separating sugars while recycling the ionic liquid. In Phase I the project demonstrated an efficient strategy for sugar recovery. By the first half of Phase II the goal is to integrate sugar recovery into the process front end. Unit operations taking raw biomass to clean sugars and lignin will be performed in batch open loop in order to close mass balances and set a baseline for further process development. Then, the loop will be closed with the addition of ionic liquid cleaning and drying. By the end of this project, the objective is to demonstrate a stable and high-yielding process, including experimentally validated techno-economic projections showing unprecedentedly low capital and operating costs.