Supercritical water treatment of biomass for energy and material recovery

Yukihiko Matsumura, Mitsuru Sasaki, Kazuhide Okuda, Seiichi Takami, Satoshi Ohara, Mitsuo Umetsu, Tadafumi Adschiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Citations (Scopus)


Supercritical water liquefaction and gasification is reviewed with the introduction of some recent findings by the authors. Supercritical water gasification is suitable for recovery of energy from wet biomass while supercritical water liquefaction opens the door to effective treatment of biomass species in terms of material recovery. Cellulose, one of the main components of biomass, is completely dissolved in supercritical water. Once dissolved, reaction of cellulose can take place swiftly by hydrolysis and pyrolysis. The hydrolysis reaction, otherwise slower than pyrolysis due to the mass transfer limitation, is faster than decomposition in supercritical water, and a possibility of efficient glucose recovery has been shown. Once dissolved, super saturation is kept when the solution is cooled down, and swift hydrolysis by enzyme is also possible. Lignin can be also converted into specialty chemicals by using supercritical cresol/water mixture as a solvent. Dissolution of cellulose also enables efficient gasification of biomass. Complete gasification of biomass has been realized with production of combustible gas including hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and methane.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)509-536
Number of pages28
JournalCombustion Science and Technology
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 2006 Jan 1


  • Biomass
  • Cellulose
  • Chemicals
  • Gasification
  • Lignin
  • Liquefaction
  • Supercritical water


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