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Microwave processing of lignocellulosic biomass for production of fuels

Lanigan, Brigid (2010) Microwave processing of lignocellulosic biomass for production of fuels. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

Current environmental issues and resource demands are driving the global development of renewable energy. The work described in this thesis applies green and energy efficient microwave technology to transform lignocellulosic biomass into solid and liquid fuels suitable for application in coal burning power plants or upgrading into transportation fuels. Current thermochemical biofuel production (e.g. pyrolysis and gasification) suffer many drawbacks such as high energy consumption and poor flexibility. Herein, it is shown that by applying novel low temperature microwave processing, fuels can be produced at temperatures up to 190 oC lower than required in equivalent conventional thermal treatments. Studies on the microwave activation of the major components of biomass give insight into the mode of action. 180 oC was identified as the key temperature in the degradation of cellulose. Softening of the amorphous region of cellulose at this temperature enables microwave induced rearrangement increasing the efficiency of microwave interaction resulting in acid catalysed decomposition. It was shown possible to produce high calorific value chars at 150 oC lower than previously expected. A reduction of 100 oC was observed in the degradation temperature of hemicellulose. The technology is versatile, effective on a variety of biomass species, and has a favourable energy balance. In studies on whole biomass, the processing conditions and energy usage were found to be favourable when compared with conventional methods. Chars were produced at low temperatures with increased calorific values and material properties in parallel with high quality bio-oils. Pilot scale trials were also carried out proving the technology to be scalable and open to industrial application. This thesis shows for the first time the possibility to produce biofuels via microwave processing, while operating at temperatures below 300 oC. The impact of these findings is being further investigated at the dedicated microwave facility at the University of York.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Chemistry (York)
Depositing User: Miss Brigid Lanigan
Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2011 15:17
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 08:45
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/1237

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