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Multiscale modelling of hydrothermal biomass pretreatment for chip size optimization

Hosseini, Seyed Ali, Shah, Nilay
Bioresource technology 2009 v.100 no.9 pp. 2621-2628
biofuels, biorefining, lignocellulose, biomass, ethanol production, mathematical models, hot water treatment, acid treatment
The objective of this work is to develop a relationship between biomass chip size and the energy requirement of hydrothermal pretreatment processes using a multiscale modelling approach. The severity factor or modified severity factor is currently used to characterize some hydrothermal pretreatment methods. Although these factors enable an easy comparison of experimental results to facilitate process design and operation, they are not representative of all the factors affecting the efficiency of pretreatment, because processes with the same temperature, residence time, and pH will not have same effect on biomass chips of different size. In our study, a model based on the diffusion of liquid or steam in the biomass that takes into account the interrelationship between chip size and time is developed. With the aid of our developed model, a method to find the optimum chip size that minimizes the energy requirement of grinding and pretreatment processes is proposed. We show that with the proposed optimization method, an average saving equivalent to a 5% improvement in the yield of biomass to ethanol conversion process can be achieved.