Skip to main content Skip to navigation


Hydrolysis Releases Sugars from Wood

Poplar wood is made of cellulose and hemicellulose along with lignin and ash (minerals). Cellulose is the principal component of the poplar cell wall, and is a polymer of the six-carbon sugar, glucose. Hemicellulose is also a cell wall polymer primarily made up of the five-carbon sugar, xylose.

The cellulosic materials are difficult to break down, which makes pre-treatment necessary to release the sugars. At the demonstration biorefinery near Boardman, OR, poplar chips are pretreated by hydrolysis using heat and pressure to produce a sugar stream of both xylose and glucose.

Pie chart styled as a tree cutting titled: Cellolose Composition of Poplar. 40% Cellulose, 20% Hemicellulose, 22% Lignin, 18% Other

The amount of cellulose and hemicellulose varies between different varieties of poplar. The research of our Feedstock Team will focus on breeding poplars that have a higher glucose content.

Workers standing near a load of wood chips going through pretreatment at ZeaChem.
The hydrolysis unit at demonstration biorefinery in Boardman, OR.