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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Peoria, Illinois » National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research » Functional Foods Research » Research » Research Project #444334

Research Project: Innovative Uses for Alfalfa Biomass: A Path to New Income for Farmers

Location: Functional Foods Research

Project Number: 5010-41000-182-003-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jul 1, 2023
End Date: Sep 30, 2025

The goal is to isolate structural biopolymers from alfalfa and use these materials for plastics replacement. Two specific objectives have been selected for this project. (1) To extract and solubilize cellulose and to understand the role of salts and plasticizers on film properties, and (2) To determine the tensile strengths of the prepared films and demonstrate their biodegradability.

1. Cellulose extraction from alfalfa: Three different protocols will be used to extract cellulose. Acid hydrolysis coupled with NaOH extraction and two concentrations, 20 and 50%, NaOH extraction will be employed. The amount of hemicellulose and lignin will be compared, higher amounds may aid in improving the strength of the prepared films. 2. Cellulose materials will be dissolved in solvents and cross-linked and made into films. 3. Characterization of films will be done with: Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR), X-ray Powder Diffraction (XRD), Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC), and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM). 3. Key tests of films for potential applications such as UV-Vis-IR absorption, mechanical strength (tensile strength), and biodegradability will be performed.