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Rapid Analysis of Inorganic Species in Herbaceous Materials Using Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy

Westover, Tyler L., Emerson, Rachel M.
Industrial biotechnology 2015 v.11 no.6 pp. 322-330
aluminum, atomic absorption spectrometry, biofuels, biomass, biotechnology, calcium, corrosion, fouling, germanium, iron, magnesium, manganese, mass spectrometry, models, phosphorus, potassium, rapid methods, silicon, sodium, synthesis gas, uncertainty, wet digestion method
Inorganic compounds in biomass, often referred to as ash, are known to be problematic in the thermochemical conversion of biomass to bio-oil or syngas and, ultimately, hydrocarbon fuels because they negatively influence reaction pathways, contribute to fouling and corrosion, poison catalysts, and impact waste streams. The most common ash-analysis methods, such as inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometry/mass spectrometry (ICP-OES/MS), require considerable time and expensive reagents. Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) is emerging as a technique for rapid analysis of the inorganic constituents in a wide range of biomass materials. This study compares analytical results using LIBS data to results obtained from three separate ICP-OES/MS methods for 12 samples, including six standard reference materials. Analyzed elements include aluminum, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and silicon, and results show that concentrations can be measured with an uncertainty of approximately 100 parts per million using univariate calibration models and relatively few calibration samples. These results indicate that the accuracy of LIBS is comparable to that of ICP-OES methods and indicate that some acid-digestion methods for ICP-OES may not be reliable for Na and Al. These results also demonstrate that germanium can be used as an internal standard to improve the reliability and accuracy of measuring many elements of interest, and that LIBS can be used for rapid determination of total ash in biomass samples. Key benefits of LIBS include little sample preparation, no reagent consumption, and the generation of meaningful analytical data instantaneously.