The effect of alkali metals on combustion and pyrolysis of Lolium and Festuca grasses, switchgrass and willow

R. Fahmi*, A. V. Bridgwater, L. I. Darvell, J. M. Jones, N. Yates, S. Thain, I. S. Donnison

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The effect of alkali metals on the thermal degradation of biomass during combustion and pyrolysis has been investigated for 19 Lolium and Festuca grass varieties. These samples have been grown under the same conditions, but has been genetically mutated to give varying lignin contents in the range 2-6% measured by Klason. These grasses also have a high alkali metal content resulting in a high ash content. In order to compare the Lolium and Festuca grasses willow chip and switchgrass were also studied to act as a reference fuels. All samples were subjected to different washing conditions to investigate the effect of decreasing the metal content. The resulting biomass samples were studied for pyrolysis characteristics using thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) and pyrolysis gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (pyroprobe-GC/MS) and for combustion characteristics by TGA. A strong catalytic effect of metals, particularly potassium, was observed in both pyrolysis and combustion. Also, it was found that as the lignin content increases, the metal content (especially potassium and sodium) decreases. Furthermore, the char yield from pyrolysis (measured at 773 K from TGA pyrolysis traces) increases as metals increase, and hence char yield increases as the lignin content decreases. Py-GCMS showed that peak intensities varied for untreated and treated samples; in particular the levoglucosan yield is higher and the hydroxyacetaldehyde yield is lower for treated (low metal content) samples. This supports previous work mechanisms by Liden et al. in which alkali metals promote an ionic route that favours ring-scission and hydroxyacetaldehyde formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1560-1569
Number of pages10
JournalFuel
Volume86
Issue number10-11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2007

Keywords

  • Alkali metals
  • Biomass washing
  • Thermal processing

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