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Ash reduction strategies in corn stover facilitated by anatomical and size fractionation

Lacey, Jeffrey A., Emerson, Rachel M., Thompson, David N., Westover, Tyler L.
Biomass and bioenergy 2016 v.90 pp. 173-180
ash content, biofuels, biomass, corn stover, feedstocks, fractionation, leaves, particle size, particle size distribution, sieves
There is growing interest internationally to produce fuels from renewable biomass resources. Inorganic components of biomass feedstocks, referred to collectively as ash, damage equipment and decrease yields in thermal conversion processes, and decrease feedstock value for biochemical conversion processes. Decreasing the ash content of feedstocks improves conversion efficiency and lowers process costs. Because physiological ash is unevenly distributed in the plant, mechanical processes can be used to separate fractions of the plant based on ash content. This study focuses on the ash separation that can be achieved by separating corn stover by particle size and anatomical fraction. Baled corn stover was hand-separated into anatomical fractions, ground to <19.1 mm, and size separated using six sieves ranging from 9.5 to 0.150 mm. Size fractions were analyzed for total ash content and ash composition. Particle size distributions observed for the anatomical fractions varied considerably. Cob particles were primarily 2.0 mm or greater, while most of the sheath and husk particles were 2.0 mm and smaller. Particles of leaves greater than 0.6 mm contained the greatest amount of total ash, ranging from approximately 8 to 13% dry weight of the total original material, while the fractions with particles smaller than 0.6 mm contained less than 2% of the total ash of the original material. Based on the overall ash content and the elemental ash, specific anatomical and size fractions can be separated to optimize the feedstocks being delivered to biofuels conversion processes and minimize the need for more expensive ash reduction treatments.