Inorganic elements present in lignocellulosic biomass and introduced during harvesting and handling of the feedstock negatively affect biomass conversion to fuels and products. In particular, alkali and alkaline earth metals act as catalysts during thermochemical conversion, contribute to reactor degradation, and decrease the yield and quality of the reaction products. In this study, we investigated an approach to reduce ash content of switchgrass. Several reagents (chelating agents ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) and citric acid, as well as acetic acid, sulfuric acid, and water) under various extraction times (5, 10, 15, and 20 min) were tested using a microwave-assisted extraction method. After the extraction, mass loss, total ash, individual inorganics, and concentration of sugars in the hydrolyzates were measured. EDTA afforded the highest inorganics removal, with near complete extraction of alkali and alkaline earth metals K, Ca, and Mg, and high removal of S and Si. Citric acid and sulfuric acid removed similarly high amounts of K, Ca, and Mg as EDTA, but less Mg, P, S, and Fe. Additionally, extraction with water resulted in near complete removal of K; however, more modest removal of other inorganics was observed compared to other treatments. The mass loss was significantly higher in the sulfuric acid extractions due to hydrolysis of the structural carbohydrates, while EDTA resulted in little carbohydrate degradation due to the more neutral pH conditions. This study illustrated the benefits of extracting with chelating agents, as opposed to mineral acids, to remove inorganics and improve biomass quality.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- Waste Management and Disposal