The primary focus of this work was to recover lignin and investigate the structural changes in sugarcane bagasse after pretreatment with ionic liquid 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium acetate ([EMIM]oAc). 90% lignin recovery was achieved while bagasse was treated with [EMIM]oAc at 140 °C, 120 min reaction time and 1:20 bagasse to the ionic liquid ratio (w/w). The impact of ionic liquid pretreatment on bagasse was confirmed by qualitative analysis of untreated and pretreated bagasse. Scanning electron microscopy analysis exhibited the porous and irregular structure of bagasse after pretreatment. X-ray powder diffraction analysis verified a decrease in crystallinity as a result of the pretreatment process by showing a 14.7% reduction of Crystallinity index after ionic liquid treatment. The efficacy of [EMIM]oAc on bagasse treatment was also examined by enzymatic hydrolysis which manifested an increase in reducing sugar yield as a result of pretreatment. Maximum yield of 54.3% reducing sugar was obtained after 72 h enzymatic hydrolysis of pretreated bagasse. Recovered lignin was analyzed qualitatively. 1D NMR spectroscopy of lignin revealed the presence of essential functional groups whereas 2D NMR spectroscopy showed the dominance of etherified syringyl unit. Further ionic liquid recovery and reuse were substantiated by Gel permeation chromatography analysis of lignin. Weight average molecular weight (Mw) of lignin extracted by fresh [EMIM]oAc was obtained as 1769 g/mol (in the previous study) while lignin recovered by recycled [EMIM]oAc showed almost equal Mw 1765 g/mol in this study. Thus, the current investigation corroborated satisfactory performance of [EMIM]oAc in lignocellulose processing which further enhanced enzymatic hydrolysis in the subsequent step.
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