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Enhanced fuel characteristics and physical chemistry of microwave hydrochar for sustainable fuel pellet production via co-densification

Kang, Kang, Nanda, Sonil, Lam, Su Shiung, Zhang, Tianle, Huo, Lili, Zhao, Lixin
Environmental research 2020 v.186 pp. 109480
biofuels, biomass, carbonization, coal, cotton, energy density, energy recovery, fuel production, heat, hot water treatment, hydrochars, lignin, lignocellulose, microwave treatment, oxidation, physical chemistry, torrefaction
Microwave assisted hydrothermal treatment (MHTC) was compared with torrefaction in terms of carbonization efficiency and physicochemical characteristics of char products. The utilization of produced char was optimized for composite solid biofuel production. The results show that MHTC significantly improved the binding capability of the microwave hydrochar (MHC) particles during co-densification with unprocessed biomass and coal. One possible contributor to the improved binding is the pseudo lignin formed during the MHTC, which led to a better interlocking of the feedstock particles and promoted the solid bridge formation. Composite pellet prepared with 80 wt% of torrefaction char (TC-120), 10 wt% of microwave hydrochar (MHC-30), and 10 wt% of Coal-04 showed a higher heating value of 24.54 MJ/kg and energy density of 26.43 GJ/m³, which is significantly higher than that of the raw cotton stalk pellet (16.77 MJ/kg and 18.76 GJ/m³, respectively), showing great promise as a solid biofuel. The moisture resistance and oxidation reactivity are also significantly improved. The results demonstrate that MHCs provides dual functionalities in acting as binder and fuel promoter in the production of composite biofuel. This study can provide new insight into the unique functions of MHC during fuel application, which demonstrates the great potential of applying MHTC in energy recovery from lignocellulosic biomass.