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Biomass Analysis Technology Newsletter

The Biomass Analysis Technology Newsletter provides updates to NREL's biomass analysis procedures and calculation spreadsheets, FAQs, new publications, and more.

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Milestone Highlights

Quantification and Characterization of Carbohydrates from a Variety of Plant Sources

The Biomass Analysis Technology (BAT) team has been working closely with government, industry, and academic stakeholders in the biofuels and bioproducts community to develop new analytical methods and reference materials to accurately determine the source of fermentable carbohydrates in biomass materials.

Glucose as a Source
Woman and man in laboratory coats working.

Of interest is glucose, which is readily fermented to fuels and products by many microorganisms. Glucose has various sources within a feedstock; the glucan monomer is a major constituent in the cell wall, it is an energy storage carbohydrate, and it can also be present as a free sugar. Each glucose-containing component has different reactivities to conversion technologies, so the identification of the source will allow optimization of reaction conditions for yields or proper valuation of feedstock based on expected reaction kinetics and yields.

Research: Quantifying Starch and Cellulose in Feedstocks

Recent research has been focused on development of accurate, precise, and specific analytical methods for quantification of starch and cellulose present in feedstocks, such as the corn kernel fiber found in corn grain. Appropriate speciation of cellulose and starch is achieved through improved enzymatic assays for determination of the starch content. Such assays were found to be particularly sensitive to sample preparation techniques and new ASTM International methods that will guide the industry will be released next year, along with appropriate National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) reference materials. These achievements are due predominantly to research performed by the BAT team. Additionally, the BAT team is developing a new cellulosic-specific assay that is easily performed in commercial analytical laboratories to better serve the growing cellulosic conversion industry, providing leadership in the biofuel and bioproduct communities.

The BAT team supports the biofuels and bioproducts community by working with academic, industrial, and governmental stakeholders to develop accurate and precise consensus analytical methods.

Current and Upcoming Work

U.S. Department of Energy Award

Team members Dr. Ed Wolfrum and Courtney Payne were awarded a Technology Commercialization Fund from the U.S. Department of Energy for their proposal, “Transfer & Validation of NREL IP for Rapid Biomass Composition using Near-Infrared (NIR) Spectroscopy to Next-Generation Ultra Low-Cost NIR Spectrometers.” This work seeks to transfer NREL's current NIR models to smaller handheld instruments for greater accessibility and usability.

National Institute of Standards and Technology Collaboration

The NREL team is collaborating with NIST to develop reference materials that can be used to determine accuracy and precision of analytical methods for carbohydrate quantification in corn grain-derived samples where multiple sources of glucose are present. This reference material has been indicated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as crucial for developing a certified Renewable Identification Number credit pathway.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Consultation

NREL researcher Justin Sluiter has been consulting with the EPA regarding analytical methods required for accurate and precise quantification of cellulose converted during Gen 1.5 in situ conversion of starch and cellulose to ethanol. The EPA has indicated the NREL Laboratory Analytical Procedures as preferred methods in the Renewable Fuels Standard regulations and our team has worked to ensure that these methods are applied in an appropriate and scientifically rigorous manner.

Tech Talks

Learn useful tips and procedural recommendations from our highly experienced scientists and technicians on daily execution of biomass analysis procedures. Our list of FAQs addresses the most common inquiries from the biofuels and biomass community. In this issue, we introduce the topic of detergent fibers.

How do NREL laboratory analytical procedures compare to neutral detergent fiber/acid detergent fiber values?
We have found that neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and acid detergent fiber (ADF) methods report different values. NDF/ADF methods are designed for measuring animal feed; they do not translate well for biofuels conversion. For more information, see "Correlating Detergent Fiber Analysis and Dietary Fiber Analysis Data for Corn Stover."

Meet Us @

Man in laboratory coat looking at test tube filled with liquid.

Meet Justin Sluiter (pictured left) at the E48 Bioenergy and Industrial Chemicals from Biomass D02 December 2018 meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, on Wednesday, December 12, 2018.

You Should Know

The BAT team has deep experience with a wide variety of materials, including:

  • Herbaceous feedstocks
  • Woody feedstocks
  • Process intermediates
  • Biofuels products
  • Ensiled materials
  • Torrefied materials
  • Pelleted materials
  • High starch grains
  • Distiller’s dried grains
  • Oats and grains

Team Bio: Darren Peterson

Man in laboratory coat kneeling down working.

Darren has been a valuable member of the BAT team at NREL for over 12 years. He is well versed in the NREL suite of Laboratory Analytical Procedures and has been performing them for as long as he has been at NREL.

Darren specializes in high-performance liquid chromatography method development, enzymatic hydrolysis, and fermentation analyses. Currently, he works on quantifying anaerobic digestion products such as lignocellulosic sugars and aromatics and characterizes various wet waste streams including brown grease.

Read his full bio.

Working with Us

For more info about compositional analysis contact:

Justin Sluiter

For more info about near infrared spectroscopy contact:

Courtney Payne

Ed Wolfrum

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