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Characteristics of High-Biomass Sorghum as a Biofuel

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2009 Reno, Nevada, June 21 - June 24, 2009  090015.(doi:10.13031/2013.28044)
Authors:   J Alex Thomasson, Brandon E Hartley, John D Gibson, Ruixui Sui, Stephen W Searcy
Keywords:   alternative energy, biofuel, biomass, biomass quality, elemental composition, high-biomass sorghum, photoperiod-sensitive, sugar composition, total dietary fiber analysis, ultimate analysis, Uppsala Method

High-biomass sorghum will play an important role as the United States moves toward alternative energy sources, particularly biomass, to supply transportation and electrical energy to the country. To minimize cost and identify shortfalls through the biomass supply chain, the biomass needs to be characterized as it affects conversion processes and logistics. The objective of this paper is to characterize high-biomass sorghum as it relates to logistics and biofuel conversion. Samples were taken and fractioned into leaves and top, middle, and bottom thirds for moisture content determination, elemental analysis, and total dietary fiber analysis. The sampling methods simulated dual-harvest and single harvest cutting systems to characterize the sorghum as it matured. The fractioned sorghum showed little difference in elemental composition but appears to slightly increase in carbon content from 43% to 45% later in the year, which would eliminate the need to remove fractions for higher value fractions. Additional ash analysis of harvested sorghum showed potential differences in soil entrainment between conditioning equipment, which would increase the ash content and lower the quality of the biomass. Equipment types could be indentified to limit the soil entrainment of the biomass, increasing the value of the biomass. As shown in this paper, the elemental composition of the sorghum varieties are comparable to commonly used biofuel feedstocks with an expected higher yield per unit area. No comparison can be made to compare the sugar composition of the sorghum as different methods were used for analysis from those found it literature.

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