Extraction of Wheat Straw with Aqueous Tetra-n-Butylphosphonium Hydroxide

Uula Hyväkkö, Alistair W. T. King, Ilkka Kilpeläinen


The stability of tetra-n-butylphosphonium hydroxide ([P4444][OH](aq)) solutions and their potential for wheat straw extraction are investigated. Under certain concentration ranges, aqueous [P4444][OH](aq) is known to rapidly dissolve up to 20 wt% of cellulose at 25 ºC. However, at elevated temperatures and at the high concentration ranges required for cellulose dissolution, [P4444][OH](aq) irreversibly decomposes. This was determined by following the kinetics of decomposition at different temperatures and concentrations, using 31P NMR analysis of the solutions. A lower concentration range of 40 wt% [P4444][OH](aq) was observed for fractionation of wheat straw, avoiding significant decomposition of the expensive phosphonium component. Herein, the possibilities for producing cellulose-rich fractions with reduced lignin contents and hemicellulose-rich extracts are discussed. A proposal is given for a full process cycle using [P4444][OH](aq), where the phosphonium salt is used in fractionation and recovered by anion metathesis as a chloride salt. Although not demonstrated in this article, the chloride salt may be converted back to the hydroxide by means of, e.g., ion exchange.


Ionic liquid; Electrolyte; Biomass; Wheat straw; Fractionation; Cellulose; Phosphonium; Hydroxide; Lignin; Hemicellulose

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