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Biomass Characterization Projects

A photo of a magnified image on a computer screen. Many blue specks and lines in different sizes and shapes are visible on top of a white background.

A microscopic image of biomass particles.

Through biomass characterization projects, NREL researchers are exploring the chemical composition of biomass samples before and after pretreatment and during processing. The characterization of biomass feedstocks, intermediates, and products is a critical step in optimizing biomass conversion processes.

Among NREL's biomass characterization projects are:

  • Feedstock/Process Interface
    NREL is working to understand the effects of feedstock and feedstock pre-processing on the conversion process and vice versa. The objective of the task is to understand the characteristics of biomass feedstocks (composition, particle size, moisture, and other characteristics), the variability in the characteristics, and how they impact the conversion process. Partners: Idaho National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

  • Biomass Structure and Development Fundamentals
    This project focuses on understanding how pretreatment chemistry impacts biomass ultrastructure and the relationship of these changes to enzyme effectiveness. By applying the tools of the Biomass Surface Characterization Laboratory, NREL is beginning to answer questions regarding the contributions of cell wall architecture to biomass recalcitrance and how that affects chemical and biological conversion. Partners: Brookhaven National Laboratory, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Weizmann Institute of Science, and Harvard University.

  • Cell Wall Structure and Porosity
    NREL is researching how biomass particle structure and ultrastructure impact product release and tar formation. The structural complexity of biomass contributes to the formation and maturation of tars by trapping pyrolysis products, increasing their residence time within particles. Understanding how the multi-scale pore structure of biomass changes during pyrolysis/gasification is critical to mitigating these effects.

Learn about biomass characterization capabilities.