Discipline: Chemistry and Chemical Sciences
Subcategory: Chemistry (not Biochemistry)
Tarymar Rodr?guez - University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez
Co-Author(s): Mathew Ramos, Daniel Alvarado, Christian Rivera, and Nelson Cardona, University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, PR
Biomass is currently considered to be one of the most promising renewable resources capable of substituting fossil derived products. The use of biomass as an alternative does not refer exclusively to the production of ethanol fuel, for biomass can be the precursor of many important chemicals, which include, but are not limited to, platform molecules like levulinic acid, hydroxymethylfurfural, lactic acid, γ-valerolactone, ect. Said molecules can be given uses that go from the synthesis of polymers to the production of biofuels. All of these molecules may be synthetized from simple sugars obtained from the deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass. In the past the deconstruction of biomass proved to be complicated due to the lignin that traps the structural sugars found in cellulose and hemicellulose form. However, James Dumesic and his group of researchers, recently used a solution containing γ-valerolactone (GVL), to deconstruct biomass and reported high sugar yields, because GVL is capable to dissolve lignin. One of the main objectives of this research is to test the viability of his methods when trying to deconstruct biomasses commonly found in the Caribbean. Biomass, especially agricultural residue, that is currently considered as waste or is being given less advantageous uses would gain considerable economic value if it were a promising deconstruction prospect. To determine how optimal a biomass would be for industrial-scale deconstruction and to know its composition, biomass must be characterized. For these experiments characterization was performed on biomasses that were selected based on their availability in large amounts in Puerto Rico. The selected biomasses were cocoa shell, tomato, banana plant, plantain plant, bamboo, and gramalote (grass). These were all characterized following the Laboratory Analytical Procedures (LAP) of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Each biomass was analyzed for water content, percentage of solids, percentage of inorganic components (ashes), water and ethanol extractives and lignin content. When analyzing the preliminary results it was observed that one of the primary complications is the amount of water that biomass normally has before it is pretreated. For the biomasses analyzed so far, the average water percentage has been 60%. Additionally it has been seen that a biomass with the average percentage of water (gramalote stems) has a total of solids of 81%, 8% of which are ashes. When it comes to extractives, water removed 28% of them and ethanol the other 1%. Each biomass will be furtherly studied in order to ultimately select the best prospects for the rest of the experiments.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): Nelson Cardona Martínez, University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez
Faculty Advisor: Nelson Cardona Martinez, firstname.lastname@example.org
Role: I did most of the characterization experiments; always with the support of a graduate student who mentored me (Christian Rivera), and recently, with the help of two undergraduate students who I have been instructing in the methods used to analyze the composition of biomass.