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Effect of Lime Pretreatment on Granulation of Switchgrass

Vikramaditya Yandapalli, Sudhagar Mani
BioEnergy research 2014 v.7 no.3 pp. 833-844
Panicum virgatum, angle of repose, ash content, biofuels, biomass, bulk density, feedstocks, granules, hardness, powders, scanning electron microscopy, starch, temperature
Densification of switchgrass into consistent and high-density solid feedstock will reduce the cost of transport, handling, and storage to produce fuels and chemicals. Development a novel, low-cost densification technology is critical for reducing the delivered cost of feedstock while improving the bulk flow properties of densified products. In this paper, a novel wet granulation technology was proposed to investigate the effect of lime pretreatment on the production of switchgrass granules. Granulation is a process of agglomerating fine powders by wetting powder surfaces with liquid binders and mild application of shear/vibrating forces. Switchgrass was size reduced into fine powders using a knife mill and pretreated with three lime loading rates (0.05, 0.1, 0.2 g/g of biomass) at 121 °C for 30 min and at room temperature (25 °C) for 72 h. The structural modification of pretreated samples was analyzed by scanning electron microscopy and autofluorescence microscopy. Pretreated samples were granulated using a pan granulator with pre-formulated starch binder. Granules made from 20 % (0.2 g/g of biomass) lime loading rate had significantly higher single granule density and angle of repose with lower binder requirement than that of untreated granules. Lime treatment did not significantly increase the bulk density and hardness of granules. Lime-treated granules had significantly higher ash content and lower gross calorific value than that of untreated granules. In overall, lime treatment was not attractive to produce granules for thermochemical conversion platform, but lime-treated granules could be used to produce liquid biofuels and platform chemicals in biochemical conversion platform.