Skip to main content

Biomass Feedstocks

Our mission is to enable the coordinated development of biomass resources and conversion technologies by understanding the field-to-fuel impact of feedstocks on biochemical and thermochemical processes.

View all NREL biomass feedstock publications.

Photo of a group of smiling men and women posing in a casual office setting.

Thermochemical Feedstock Performance Testing

We evaluate the "field-to-fuel" performance of industrially relevant feedstocks and blends in thermochemical processes, such as fast pyrolysis, catalytic fast pyrolysis, and gasification, and assess the impact of various feed preprocessing technologies.

Flow chart diagram illustrating sugar release from both densified and blended feedstocks, both herbaceous and woody. The Raw Feedstock, represented by a photo of dried grasses and Pelleted Feedstock, represented by a photo of wood pellets goes to a Dilute Acid Pretreatment of Formatted Feedstocks, which is represented by an illustration of an Accelerated Solvent Extractor (ASE) 350. The feedstocks then go to Enzymatic Hydrolysis of Pretreated Solids, represented by a photo of an incubator/shaker with clear flasks filled with liquids and topped with caps. Compositional Analysis is then performed and a bar graph illustrates the combined sugar release (glucose and xylose) from bioconversion of pelleted and non-pelleted corn stover (CS), Switchgrass (SWG), and Hybrid Poplar (HP) feedstocks. The bar graph shows Reactivity (y-axis in percent, from 0 to 100, and Feedstock Variety on the x-axis, showing Non-pelleted (yellow) and Pelleted (orange) results for five groups of data: CS Non-Pelleted = 78, CS Pelleted = 91; SWG Non-Pelleted = 80, SWG Pelleted = 86; CS + SWG Non-Pelleted = 90, CS + SWG Pelleted = 80; CS + SWG + HP Non-Pelleted = 75, CS + SWG + HP Pelleted = 83; and HP Non-Pelleted = 64, HP Pelleted = 76.

Bioconversion Characterization and Performance Testing

We investigate how various types of native and formatted biomass feedstocks, such as the densified and/or blended feedstocks shown in the image, impact the bioconversion, and ultimately the production, of fuels and chemicals needed for a growing economy.

A series of illustrations and images. The upper left represents molecular beam mass spectrometry where a photo of a molecular beam skimmer is shown inside a vacuum chamber (silver cone with a 1 millimeter orifice at the apex). To the right are mass spectra collected from pyrolysis and gasification processes operating at 500 degrees Celsius and 850 degrees Celsius, respectively. The pyrolysis spectrum shows several hundred peaks comprised mainly of oxygenates, whereas the gasification spectrum shows 10-15 major peaks comprised mainly of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbon tars. The lower left represents x-ray spectroscopy and shows x-ray microprobe maps indicating the location of potassium and chlorine in corn stover bio-chars in splashes of turquoise, red, green, and yellow on a blue background. The lower right represents two-dimensional gas chromatography, showing a 2-D gas chromatogram of raw pyrolysis oil (multi-colored dots and numbers scattered on a blue background with areas circled in red), indicating several chemical functional groupings of the 200 or so compounds identified with this method.

Advanced Feedstock and Product Characterization

We are using advanced analytics to characterize biomass and its thermochemical products, including molecular beam mass spectrometry, x-ray spectroscopy, near-infrared spectroscopy, 2-D gas chromatography, and high-resolution mass spectrometry. Learn more about biomass characterization research at NREL.

Four photos in a quadrant showing corn stover that has been (a) pelleted, (b) milled, (c) thermochemically pretreated, and (d) enzymatically hydrolyzed. These materials have greatly different physical and chemical properties which dictate how they are transported and processed throughout the biorefinery.

Biomass Rheology and Flowability Characterization

We utilize rheological characterization and granular solids flow testing to better understand how physical, chemical, and biological processing impact biomass feeding and handling throughout the biorefinery.

Research Team

Principal Investigators

Ed Wolfrum

Principal Researcher and Manager, Process and Analytical Engineering Group | 303-384-7705

Nathaniel Crawford

Kellene McKinney

Ryan Ness

Michele Nolker

Scott Palmer

Braden Peterson

Darren Peterson

Kailee Potter

Glenn Powell

Jeff Wolfe

Related and Integrated Programs

Biochemical Process Development and Integration

Biomass Characterization

Computational Modeling

Thermochemical Process Integration, Scale-Up and Piloting



Colorado State University

Energy Technology Centre (Sweden)

Idaho National Laboratory

International Energy Agency

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

North Carolina State University

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Washington State University

The Biomass Feedstocks R&D program acknowledges funding and support from the U.S. Department of Energys Bioenergy Technologies Office.