283043 Characterization and Fast Pyrolysis Study of Phragmites Australis to Evaluate Its Potential As Feedstock for Biofuels Production

Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Hall B (Convention Center )
Lindsay Peterson1, Rene Garrido1, Nydia Ruiz-Felix2 and Justinus A. Satrio2, (1)Chemical Engineering, Villanova University, Villanova, PA, (2)Chemical Engineering Department, Villanova University, Villanova, PA

The use of lignocellulosic biomass as an alternative carbon source for energy production, particularly liquid fuels, is promising due to its widespread availability. A potential biomass source is Phragmites australis, commonly known as phragmites or common reeds. It is an invasive wetland weed that is one of the most abundant plant species on the planet, covering approximately ten million hectares, and it can be found on every continent excluding Antarctica.  In addition to being abundant, phragmites can produce biomass in high yields.  It is reported that it can provide up to 18-28 tons of biomass per acre per year. The phragmites grow easily, producing lignocellulosic biomass in high yield, on land areas that are not used for growing food crops, which potentially makes the plant species an excellent feedstock for biofuel production. It has been reported that Phragmites australis is rich in cellulose and lignin, the main components in lignocellulosic biomass that are particularly important for biomass conversions to biofuels. 

The purpose of this research is to understand the physical traits of Phragmites australis and to understand the feasibility of Phragmites australis as a biomass feedstock via a thermochemical conversion process called fast pyrolysis.  Fast pyrolysis is a process in which organic materials are rapidly heated to 450 - 600 °C in absence of air. Under these conditions, organic vapors, permanent gases (CO, H2, CO2, CH4), and charcoal are produced. The vapors are condensed to a liquid called bio-crude oil (BCO). The chemical and physical properties of BCO are dependent on the biomass materials used as feedstock. The advantage of pyrolysis over biochemical-based process is that it can transform difficult-to-handle biomass of different natures into clean and uniform liquid (BCO), which then can be used as a heating source or further processed to produce transport fuels, such as gasoline and diesel.

The phragmites samples used for this study were collected from a wetland area located within Villanova University’s campus. The material is prepared for physicochemical characterization by drying and grinding.  The characterization study includes fiber analysis, proximate analysis (using Thermogravimetric Analyzer (TGA)), mineral content composition (using Induced Coupled Plasma (ICP)), and heating value (by using differential scanning calorimeter (DSC)). DSC is also used to study the thermal behavior of the biomass material when it undergoes fast pyrolysis reaction. Another instrument, Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), is used to identify chemical functionality of the biomass material. A limited number of fast pyrolysis experiments by using a micropyrolyzer/GC-MS system were performed to evaluate the yields and chemical product distribution from pyrolyzing phragmites. To be reported in this presentation are the results of these characterization and fast pyrolysis studies.

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See more of this Session: Poster Session: Sustainability and Sustainable Biorefineries
See more of this Group/Topical: Sustainable Engineering Forum