In the Midwest of the U.S., several members of the Poaceae family can be grown as bioenergy crops. Besides Miscanthus and switchgrass, which have been extensively studied, native Midwestern grasses such as big bluestem, coastal panicgrass, deertongue, indiangrass, sandreed and sideoats grama can be grown in monoculture or polyculture plantations.
In addition to climate, soil fertility and water availability, the selection of bioenergy crops depends on the choice of conversion technology. One such technology, fast pyrolysis, is a thermochemical approach for converting biomass into a liquid product known as bio-oil, a hydrocarbon fuel intermediate.
In this research, the eight aforementioned grass varieties were characterized by fiber and metal analyses as well as calorimetry and thermal gravimetry. Conversion by analytical pyrolysis showed that although variability exists, all eight grasses produced a similar spectrum of chemical compounds. Principal component analysis of pyrolysis-GC/MS data detected statistically significant differences amongst the grass varieties on the basis of six key chemical markers: glycolaldehyde, acetic acid, acetol, methyl glyoxal, 4-vinylphenol and levoglucosan. Though taxonomic classification was not found to affect product composition, correlation analysis verified that biomass composition and thermal properties might be responsible for the differences in pyrolysis products.
Source: Science Direct, press release, 2014-04-21.
Author: Shantanu Kelkara, Zhenglong Lia,, Jonathan Boveea, Kurt D. Thelenc, Robert M. Kriegeld, Christopher M. Saffron