See more from this Session: Bioenergy Conversion, Energetics, and Efficiency
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Long Beach Convention Center, Exhibit Hall BC, Lower Level
Quantifying actual and theoretical ethanol yields from biomass conversion processes requires expensive, complex fermentation tests and extensive laboratory analyses of the biomass sample with costs exceeding $300 per sample. Near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS) is a non-destructive technology that can be used to obtain accurate estimates of agricultural product composition based on differential absorbance and reflectance of light at specific wave lengths. NIRS calibrations were developed for switchgrass biomass that can be used to estimate over 20 components including cell wall and soluble sugars and also ethanol production as measured using a laboratory conversion and fermentation procedure. With this information, an additional 13 complex biomass feedstock traits can be determined including theoretical and actual ethanol yields. These NIRS calibrations were used to estimate feedstock composition and conversion information for biomass samples from a multi-year switchgrass biomass cultivar trial. There were significant differences among switchgrass strains for all biomass conversion and composition traits including actual ethanol yields and theoretical ethanol yields per ton and acre. Conventional analyses costs for this study would have exceeded $100,000 but with NIRS the costs of the analyses were approximately $2000 or about $5 per sample. It should be feasible to improve ethanol yields per acre by improving both biomass yield and conversion efficiency by using NIRS analyses to quantify differences among cultivars and management practices.