Biomass processing with ionic liquids (ILs) has been one of the most topical research areas in recent years. However, separation and recovery of biomass products and ILs are currently a challenge. Recovery of produced monosaccharides from an IL postreaction solution and the possibility to reuse the IL are strongly required to guarantee the sustainability of biomass processing. The present study demonstrates a novel approach that aims at separating a biomass hemicellulose-derived product, namely, xylose, and 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium hydrogensulfate ([emim][HSO4]). High polarity of a postreaction system composed of xylose, IL, and water is one of the major hindrances in the separation performance. A proposed solution is fine-tuning of the system polarity by the addition of moderately polar acetonitrile. To scrutinize the potential of xylose and IL separation, phase equilibria of a system constituted by [emim][HSO4], water, and acetonitrile were studied. Additionally, preparative chromatography experiments with alumina as a stationary phase were performed to determine the conditions required for efficient separation of the sugar and the IL by selective adsorption of xylose on alumina in detriment of IL. The amount and treatment of the stationary phase, eluent polarity, and amount of loaded sample were also scrutinized in this study. Treatment of alumina was considered as a necessary step to achieve recovery yields of 90.8 and 98.1 wt % for the IL and xylose, respectively, as separate fractions.
- ionic liquids