2020 aug 28




Joanna Wojtasz-Mucha


Joanna Wojtasz-Mucha

Defence of doctoral thesis: Joanna Wojtasz-Mucha – Pre-extraction of wood component – Mild hydrothermal methods for a future materials biorefinery

Chalmers / WWSC

Opponent: Mats Galbe, Lund University 

The thesis defense will be online via Zoom in a password-protected meeting. Welcome to contact the chairman for the thesis defense, Tuve Mattson (  to obtain the password for the meeting. 

Link to the meeting:


Today there is an increasing urgency in discovering new, and more sustainable, replacements for fossil-based materials and chemicals. The biorefinery concept is promising in this context in that it relies on transforming biomass into a spectrum of commercial products. Wood is the primary bioresource in Scandinavia. It is mostly processed in the kraft pulping process used in the huge and important pulp and paper industry, thereby providing a suitable platform for future material biorefineries. This process allows for the efficient separation of lignin and cellulose, along with the option of adding a pretreatment step for the recovery of hemicelluloses.

Among existing pretreatments, mild hydrothermal methods, such as hot water extraction and steam explosion, are promising since they allow recovery of hemicelluloses with minimal degradation. They are based on the acidic hydrolysis (autohydrolysis) of wood components and diffusive transport through the wood tissue. In steam explosion, the latter is enhanced by the advective transport in the pore system of the wood caused by the rapid release of the pressure. The focus of this work was to explore the possibility of using steam explosion and hot water extraction on different types of forest biomass, as well as to improve understanding of the underlying mechanisms.

Performed in different experimental set ups, the work included determining the local composition of wood chips pretreated in different ways, continuous extraction of spruce and birch wood meal and a stepwise treatment of forest residues. The influence of autohydrolysis on the wood components, hemicelluloses (decreasing molar weight, deacetylation, cleavage of side groups, extraction and degradation), lignin (partial degradation and extraction) and cellulose (introduction of chain scissions) was analyzed. Moreover, the mechanism of acidification and the contribution of acetic acid were also investigated. The variations in the local composition of the wood chips obtained by steam explosion and hot water extraction were determined and related to the differences in mass transport and severity of the treatment. Finally, it was shown that the impact of steam explosion had a limited effect on refined wood residues, likely due to the relatively small size of the material.