An overview of the different inhibitors formed by pre-treatment of lignocellulosic materials and their inhibition of ethanol production in yeast and bacteria is given. Different high temperature physical pre-treatment methods are available to render the carbohydrates in lignocellulose accessible for ethanol fermentation. The resulting hydrolyzsates contain substances inhibitory to fermentation-depending on both the raw material (biomass) and the pre-treatment applied. An overview of the inhibitory effect on ethanol production by yeast and bacteria is presented. Apart from furans formed by sugar degradation, phenol monomers from lignin degradation are important co-factors in hydrolysate inhibition, and inhibitory effects of these aromatic compounds on different ethanol producing microorganisms is reviewed. The furans and phenols generally inhibited growth and ethanol production rate (Q(EtOH)) but not the ethanol yields (Y(EtOH)) in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Within the same phenol functional group (aldehyde, ketone, and acid) the inhibition of volumetric ethanol productivity was found to depend on the amount of methoxyl substituents and hence hydrophobicity (log P). Many pentose-utilizing strains Escherichia coli, Pichia stipititis, and Zymomonas mobilis produce ethanol in concentrated hemicellulose liquors but detoxification by overliming is needed. Thermoanaerobacter mathranii A3M3 can grow on pentoses and produce ethanol in hydrolysate without any need for detoxification.
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