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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Albany, California » Western Regional Research Center » Bioproducts Research » Research » Research Project #427364

Research Project: Bioproducts from Agricultural Feedstocks

Location: Bioproducts Research

2019 Annual Report

The demand for agricultural feedstocks is growing as global demand for food is ever increasing and efforts mount to create alternatives to petroleum products that feed global warming. The goal of this project plan is to use biopolymers to develop sustainable technologies and bioproducts that will benefit the U.S. and that will not negatively impact food reserves. This plan highlights the use of nonfood fibers and crop waste to create new bioproducts and help improve the efficiency in utilizing agricultural commodities via the following objectives: Objective 1: Enable, from a technological standpoint, new commercial value-added biobased materials. a. Utilize conventional and novel processing technologies to produce and characterize nanofibers from biopolymers and investigate potential applications. b.Utilize biopolymers to encapsulate/deliver beneficial soil microbes that improve crop production. Objective 2: Enable new commercial materials based on biopolymers and biobased fillers. a. Develop fiber-reinforced composite materials. b. Develop value-added bioproducts from torrefied crop waste. c. Develop value-added bioproducts from almond, grape and citrus waste.

The overarching approach will be to provide data, technology and prototypes that will not only result in novel bioproducts but also address important agricultural needs including the need for higher crop production, the need for more sustainable farming practices, the need for alternatives to petroleum-based products and the need for new innovations such as nanotechnology. The first approach is development of composite materials that encapsulate beneficial microbes to be used to reduce the inputs of conventional fertilizers and petroleum-based pesticides. A co-development as part of this approach is production of humic acid from renewable resources such as torrefied crop waste to augment soil health. Humates will be used as soil amendments to improve soil fertility and crop production. Also, nanofibers from aqueous solutions of biopolymers will be made and characterized by developing new processes to make nanofibers from a wide array of biopolymers. Bioproducts made using the nanofibers will include controlled-release devices and sensors. Objective 2 is aimed at developing bioproducts from nonfood agricultural products, namely plant fibers and crop waste. The group will apply expertise in dispersing plant fibers in biopolymer matrices and in inorganic binders. The anticipated bioproducts developed in Objective 2a include compression molded food service products containing more than 60% fiber using biopolymers as binders. We will also create lightweight rigid foam products by dispersing plant fibers in inorganic binders including Portland cement and gypsum. California has one of the most diverse agricultural industries in the world and ranks first in production in terms of cash receipts ($43 billion), but also leads in the output of crop waste and residues. Diverse agricultural byproducts such as almond hulls, grape pomace, citrus peel waste, etc., which are concentrated at processing plants and often carry a cost for disposal, will be converted into higher value products. Objectives 2b, and 2c specifically address this need. The anticipated products include black filler for PET plastics and pelletized coal dust made using inexpensive biopolymer binders such as citrus waste and gums from almond hulls. Other bioproducts include essential oils and antioxidants extracted from seeds processed from grape pomace.

Progress Report
In support of Sub-objective 1A, work continued on solution blow spinning (SBS) of ceramic fibers with collaborators from Brazil. Porous nitrogen-doped (N-doped)carbon/silica hybrid nanofibers (PN-CSN) were successfully prepared using polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) via a simple and efficient SBS technique followed by a one-step carbonization process. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and nitrogen (N) adsorption-desorption isotherms demonstrated that the nanofibers had an average diameter of 233±178 nanometers (nm) with a wide range in pore sizes and a high specific surface area. Both N-carbon and silica nanofiber properties were efficient in adsorption of dyes from aqueous solutions. At low dye concentrations the adsorption capacity reached 100 percent of uptake. The adsorption capacity increased when the temperature was elevated. Thermodynamically, the adsorption process was found to be spontaneous in nature (G < 0) and a feasible process for dye adsorption. The results demonstrate the potential use of PVP to produce N-carbon materials as a component on porous hybrid nanofibers by solution blow spinning and show its potential in the treatment of wastewater. In support of Sub-objective 1B, field trials are continuing with farmers to demonstrate the effectiveness of microbial treatments on crop production and disease control. Field trials are promising, and further trials are being planned. Related to Sub-objective 2A, a patent application was submitted for producing fiber foam products using a foaming agent and minimal amounts of water. The foam products insulate well depending the final density of the foam. Commercial prototypes of products are being made and a process for making pilot scale foam products is being developed in collaboration with our industrial partner. In support of Sub-objective 2B, funding has been obtained from the Almond Board of California to continue research into torrefied shell-polymer composites. Torrefied almond shells had been incorporated into recycled polypropylene to make a masterbatch for a company that makes plastic pallets. The company successfully produced pallets using the masterbatch. Also, a combined torrefaction reactor-compounder was built to make the composites more efficiently. This process is continuous and can be used to make the composites faster than conventional batch methods. In addition, a condenser was attached to the torrefaction reactor to capture volatiles produced during the torrefaction process. The condensed volatiles will provide a more complete picture of the torrefaction process.

1. Cellulose foam for single-use packaging applications. The wide use of plastic foam for single-use applications has contributed to the massive accumulation of plastics in our oceans, waterways, and environment. A growing number of municipalities have banned various single-use plastic products and called for their replacement with compostable and sustainable alternatives. ARS researchers in Albany, California, have developed a method for making foam from plant fiber that is functional in many single-use applications and is inexpensive and compostable. The results of this work could provide new markets for plant fibers and help reduce plastic waste.

2. Biodegradable, renewably sourced natural packaging composition (NPC) for use in single-use, controllably-soluble films. Soluble polymers like polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) are used extensively in cleaning products, but they are synthetic and do not easily biodegrade. ARS researchers in Albany, California, have worked with industry researchers to develop a replacement for PVA made from renewable materials that readily biodegrade in the environment. This research has resulted in a patent application. The researchers believe their efforts will lead to the development of cleaning products that are safe for the environment.

Review Publications
Thomas, S.M., Franquivillanueva, D.M., Hart-Cooper, W.M., Waggoner, M., Glenn, G.M. 2019. Lactic acid production from almond hulls. Journal of Food & Industrial Microbiology. 5(1):128.
Giroto, A.S., Guimar, G.G., Colnago, L.A., Klamczynski, A.P., Glenn, G.M., Ribeiro, C. 2019. Controlled release of nitrogen using urea-melamine-starch composites. Journal of Cleaner Production. 217:448-455.
Borries, F.A., Kudla, A.M., Kim, S., Allston, T.D., Eddingsaas, N.C., Shey, J., Orts, W.J., Klamczynski, A.P., Glenn, G.M., Miri, M.J. 2019. Ketalization of 2-Heptanone to prolong its activity as mite repellant for the protection of honey bees. 99(14):6267-6277. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.
Shogren, R.L., Wood, D.F., Orts, W.J., Glenn, G.M. 2019. Plant-based materials and transitioning to a circular economy. Sustainable Production and Consumption. 19:194-215.
Saha, N., Saba, A., Saha, P., McGaughy, K., Franqui-Villanueva, D.M., Orts, W.J., Hart-Cooper, W.M., Reza, T.M. 2019. Hydrothermal carbonization of various paper mill sludges: an observation of solid fuel properties. Energies. 12(5):858.
Tonoli, G.H., Sá, V.A., Guimarães, M.J., Fonseca, A., Glenn, G.M., Moulin, J.C., Panthapulakkal, S., Sain, M., Wood, D.F., Williams, T.G., Torres, L.F., Orts, W.J. 2019. Cellulose sheets made from micro/nanofibrillated fibers of bamboo, jute, and eucalyptus cellulose pulps. Cellulose Chemistry and Technology. 53(3):291-305.
Arantes, A., Silva, L., Wood, D.F., Almeida, C., Tonoli, G., Oliveira, J., Silva, J., Williams, T.G., Orts, W.J., Bianchia, M. 2018. Bio-based thin films of cellulose nanofibrils and magnetite for application in green electronics. Carbohydrate Polymers. 207(1):100-107.
Arantes, A.C., Silva, L.E., Wood, D.F., Almeida, C.D., Tonoli, G.H., Oliveira, J.E., Silva, J.P., Williams, T.G., Orts, W.J., Bianchia, M. 2018. Bio-based thin films of cellulose nanofibrils and magnetite for potential application in green electronics. Carbohydrate Polymers. 207:100-107.
Bilbao-Sainz, C., Chiou, B., Punotai, K.L., Olson, D.A., Williams, T.G., Wood, D.F., Rodov, V., Poverenov, E., McHugh, T.H. 2018. Layer-by-layer alginate and fungal chitosan based edible coatings applied to fruit bars. Journal of Food Science. 83(7):1880-1887.
Bilbao-Sainz, C., Sinrod, A., Chiou, B., McHugh, T.H. 2019. Functionality of strawberry powder on frozen dairy desserts. Journal of Texture Studies. 50(6):556-563.
McCaffrey, Z., Torres, L.F., Flynn, S.M., Cao, T.K., Chiou, B., Klamczynski, A.P., Glenn, G.M., Orts, W.J. 2019. Recycled polyproplene-polyethylene torrefied almond shell biocomposites. Industrial Crops and Products. 125:425-432.