The Schwank Group

-Biomass Gasification-

Sameer Parvathikar and Johannes Schwank

Biomass Decomposition

Thermal decompositition profile of Oak compared
to pure biomass components

The increased global dependance on fossil fuels and the resulting surge in pollution levels have prompted a quest for alternate fuels. Biomass is of interest since it is renewable with low overall CO2 emissions. However, large scale use of biofuels have resulted in global deforestation and increased food prices. Small modular biopower systems offer a low footprint and cost effective solution to these problems.

Gasification and pyrolysis of biomass has been known to produce syngas, which can be used as a gaseous fuel for power synthesis or in the synthesis of Fischer-Tropsch oils etc, and other compounds that can be used in the synthesis of various chemicals. These processes have traditionally been carried out at very high temperatures and the catalysts used have been targetted at tar reduction and syn-gas quality product formation. Previous research has also focussed on evaluating products on the basis of total gas formation and total oil formation. Significant gaps exist in the understanding of low temperature gasification and product analysis.

Catalytic Biomass Decomposition

Effect of catalysts on the decomposition of Oak

Thermogravimetric analysis has been done on various biomass samples to understand decomposition regimes in different atmospheres and in the presence of different catalysts. A gasification reactor is being built to study the product evolution from biomass decomposition.

The decomposition of the three macro-components of biomass, viz., cellulose, lignin and hemicellulose (substituted with xylan) have been compared with the decomposition of the biomass samples to determine the temperature range of degradation of each component. The effect of good combustion catalysts like Pt/Al2O3 have been shown to accelerate the gasification.

The main focus of the research will be the identification and quantification of the products of biomass gasification and pyrolysis according to their functional groups as a function of the temperature and time of evolution. This would enable the identification of volatiles evolved at low temperatures and and investigate the feasibility of using these volatiles to make useful products. It is proposed to use the GC and the IR to analyse the evolved gases while the liquid products would be analysed with a GC/MS. The effect of different primary and secondary catalysts in altering product composition and yields will also be studied.

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