A study of bonding and failure mechanisms in fuel pellets from different biomass resources

Wolfgang Stelte, Jens K. Holm, Anand R. Sanadi, Søren Barsberg, Jesper Ahrenfeldt, Ulrik Birk Henriksen

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    Pelletization of biomass reduces its handling costs, and results in a fuel with a greater structural homogeneity. The aim of the present work was to study the strength and integrity of pellets and relate them to the quality and mechanisms of inter-particular adhesion bonding. The raw materials used were: beech, spruce and straw, representing the most common biomass types used for fuel pellet production, i.e. hardwoods, softwoods and grasses, respectively. The results showed that the compression strengths of the pellets were in general higher for pellets produced at higher temperatures, and much higher for wood pellets than for straw pellets. Scanning electron microscopy of the beech pellets fracture surfaces, pressed at higher temperatures, showed areas of cohesive failure, indicating high energy failure mechanisms, likely due to lignin flow and inter-diffusion between adjacent wood particles. These were absent in both spruce and straw pellets. Infrared spectroscopy of the fracture surfaces of the straw pellets indicated high concentrations of hydrophobic extractives, that were most likely responsible for their low compression strength, due to presence of a chemical weak boundary layer, limiting the adhesion mechanism to van der Waals forces. Electron micrographs indicating interfacial failure mechanisms support these findings. Infrared spectra of the fracture surface of wood pellets, pressed at elevated temperatures, showed no signs of hydrophobic extractives. It has been shown that both temperature and chemical composition, i.e. the presence of hydrophobic extractives, have a significant influence on the bonding quality between biomass particles during the pelletizing process.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalBiomass & Bioenergy
    Issue number2
    Pages (from-to)910-918
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


    • Bio systems
    • Thermal gasification of biomass

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