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Direct measures of mechanical energy for knife mill size reduction of switchgrass, wheat straw, and corn stover

Bitra, Venkata S.P., Womac, Alvin R., Igathinathane, C., Miu, Petre I., Yang, Yuechuan T., Smith, David R., Chevanan, Nehru, Sokhansanj, Shahab
Bioresource technology 2009 v.100 no.24 pp. 6578-6585
renewable energy sources, biomass, raw materials, Panicum virgatum, wheat straw, Triticum aestivum, corn stover, Zea mays, lignocellulose, biorefining, refiners, grinders, chopping, energy use and consumption
Lengthy straw/stalk of biomass may not be directly fed into grinders such as hammer mills and disc refiners. Hence, biomass needs to be preprocessed using coarse grinders like a knife mill to allow for efficient feeding in refiner mills without bridging and choking. Size reduction mechanical energy was directly measured for switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), wheat straw (Triticum aestivum L.), and corn stover (Zea mays L.) in an instrumented knife mill. Direct power inputs were determined for different knife mill screen openings from 12.7 to 50.8mm, rotor speeds between 250 and 500rpm, and mass feed rates from 1 to 11kg/min. Overall accuracy of power measurement was calculated to be ±0.003kW. Total specific energy (kWh/Mg) was defined as size reduction energy to operate mill with biomass. Effective specific energy was defined as the energy that can be assumed to reach the biomass. The difference is parasitic or no-load energy of mill. Total specific energy for switchgrass, wheat straw, and corn stover chopping increased with knife mill speed, whereas, effective specific energy decreased marginally for switchgrass and increased for wheat straw and corn stover. Total and effective specific energy decreased with an increase in screen size for all the crops studied. Total specific energy decreased with increase in mass feed rate, but effective specific energy increased for switchgrass and wheat straw, and decreased for corn stover at increased feed rate. For knife mill screen size of 25.4mm and optimum speed of 250rpm, optimum feed rates were 7.6, 5.8, and 4.5kg/min for switchgrass, wheat straw, and corn stover, respectively, and the corresponding total specific energies were 7.57, 10.53, and 8.87kWh/Mg and effective specific energies were 1.27, 1.50, and 0.24kWh/Mg for switchgrass, wheat straw, and corn stover, respectively. Energy utilization ratios were calculated as 16.8%, 14.3%, and 2.8% for switchgrass, wheat straw, and corn stover, respectively. These data will be useful for preparing the feed material for subsequent fine grinding operations and designing new mills.