2012 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
Project seeks to create technology to convert waste biomass into bioenergy.
1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Research will be conducted to convert underutilized waste streams, such as ag-residues, municipal solid waste, processing waste and food wastes into bioenergy. This includes biomass characterization, enzyme optimization and improved production of biomethane and ethanol.
This research is directly in line with Objective 3 of the parent project plan; specifically to develop pretreatment technologies that enable commercially-viable biorefineries capable of utilizing diverse feedstocks such as rice straw, wheat straw, commingled wastes (including MSW), sorghum, switchgrass, algae, and food processing by-products.
The USDA bought, assembled, tested and began utilizing a set of fermentors to test the protocols established in this project. To date, research is ongoing in the following areas:
1. Characterization of solid waste biomass, including paper wastes (office waste, newspapers and packaging), municipal solids waste (MSW), food wastes (including sub-par fruits and vegetables), ag-processing residues, grass clippings, and tree prunings. Research on almond hulls and almond shells are particularly effective. Almond wastes are a big biomass source in California, and also in Pakistan (also a top-10 world-wide producer). Considering that almonds are a common biomass source for both the U.S. and Pakistan, it is noteworthy that fermentation of almond shells and hulls is proving to be viable.
2. Analysis of pre-treated MSW as biomass feed stock continues in the United States.
3. Fermentation of easily-derived sugars from these wastes for ethanol production was already carried out for sugars obtained from almond hulls.
4. The fermentors were established for anaerobic digestion for production of methane, with establishment of colonies that will convert solid waste to biogas
5. The biogas from these experiments have been characterized.