Effect of Torrefaction on Water Vapor Adsorption Properties and Resistance to Microbial Degradation of Corn Stover

Medic, Dorde
Darr, Matthew
Darr, Matthew
Shah, Ajay
Rahn, Sarah
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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

The equilibrium moisture content (EMC) of biomass affects transportation, storage, downstream feedstock processing, and the overall economy of biorenewables production. Torrefaction is a thermochemical process conducted in the temperature regime between 200 and 300 °C under an inert atmosphere that, among other benefits, aims to reduce the innate hydrophilicity and susceptibility to microbial degradation of biomass. The objective of this study was to examine water sorption properties of torrefied corn stover. The EMC of raw corn stover, along with corn stover thermally pretreated at three temperatures, was measured using the static gravimetric method at equilibrium relative humidity (ERH) and temperatures ranging from 10 to 98% and from 10 to 40 °C, respectively. Five isotherms were fitted to the experimental data to obtain the prediction equation that best describes the relationship between the ERH and the EMC of lignocellulosic biomass. Microbial degradation of the samples was tested at 97% ERH and 30 °C. Fiber analyses were conducted on all samples. In general, torrefied biomass showed an EMC lower than that of raw biomass, which implied an increase in hydrophobicity. The modified Oswin model performed best in describing the correlation between ERH and EMC. Corn stover torrefied at 250 and 300 °C had negligible dry matter mass loss due to microbial degradation. Fiber analysis showed a significant decrease in hemicellulose content with the increase in pretreatment temperature, which might be the reason for the hydrophobic nature of the torrefied biomass. The outcomes of this work can be used for torrefaction process optimization, and decision-making regarding raw and torrefied biomass storage and downstream processing.


Reprinted with permission from Energy & Fuels 26, no. 4 (2012): 2386–2393, doi:10.1021/ef3000449.