Switchgrass can be used in a number of biofuel applications, but moving it - especially feeding it into boilers - can be problematic, said Klein Ileleji, an assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering.
While corn and soybeans are round and spherical, switchgrass is shaped more like matchsticks, causing pieces to interlock and disrupt its ability to flow. Those blockages cost time and can be dangerous for those tasked with breaking the clog, he said.
"In any facility ¨l in a power plant or in a processing facility ¨l when you have a blockage, it's a processing nightmare," said Ileleji, whose findings are in the current issue of the journal Transactions of the ASABE.
Ileleji compared circularity, roundness and aspect ratio for corn, soybean and switchgrass that had been hammermilled to three different sizes. Aspect ratio, which has the greatest effect on the ability of switchgrass to flow, is the ratio of a switchgrass particle's length to its width.
Conventional wisdom held that grinding switchgrass into smaller pieces would bring its aspect ratio closer to that of corn and soybeans, which have ratios close to 1 and no problems with flowability.
"Switchgrass is not a good flowable feedstock. You would think grinding it smaller would help," Ileleji said. "But grinding does not necessarily change the morphological characteristics in switchgrass that are important for flow."
Ileleji's testing showed that hammermilling - one of the most common grinding techniques, which beats and breaks biomass until it is small enough to pass through screens - breaks switchgrass in a way that keeps its aspect ratio about the same no matter the size. Unless the switchgrass is milled into a powder, those high aspect ratios would keep causing switchgrass to interlock and clog in bulk flow.
Ileleji said processors could save money with the information because they can stop hammermilling switchgrass when it fits through a 6.4 mm screen, the largest Ileleji tested.
"Grinding consumes a lot of energy. It is one of the highest energy costs in a processing facility," Ileleji said. "It's better to grind switchgrass through a 6.4 mm screen than to use more energy to grind through a smaller screen expecting that its handling characteristics would be improved dramatically."
Ileleji said he would study flow behavior of switchgrass through hoppers to try to find ways to keep it from creating blockages. Duke Energy and the Purdue Energy Center funded his research, which is part of his doctoral student Cedric Ogden's research on the flow mechanics of switchgrass bulk solid in hoppers under gravity discharge.
Abstract on the research in this release is available at: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2010/100412IelejiMorphology.html
Brian Wallheimer | EurekAlert!
Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product
02.12.2016 | Purdue University
New findings about the deformed wing virus, a major factor in honey bee colony mortality
11.11.2016 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy