Project Title: Switchgrass and Sorghum Biomass Optimization for Staged Thermal Conversion to Biofuels
PI: Dr. Laura Bartley (University of Oklahoma)
Co-PI: Dr. Lance Lobban (University of Oklahoma)
Co-PI: Dr. John Mullet (Texas A&M University)
Collaborator: Dr. David Hodge ( Montana State University)
Collaborator: Dr. Zhanyuan Zhang, University of Missouri
Start Date: 12/01/2017 End Date: 03/31/2019
The long-term objective of this project is to develop efficient processes for lignocellulosic biofuel production that optimize carbon yields while maintaining favorable conversion economics. Specifically, this project will test relationships between switchgrass and sorghum biomass feedstock components and the generation of hydrocarbon fuels and chemicals under a staged thermochemical conversion regime. Specific objectives are as follows:
1) Test hypotheses regarding the relationships between biomass lignin and hydroxycinnamates and the products resulting from low temperature torrefaction and sequential torrefaction-pyrolysis, by isolating cell wall variation to these features through comparison of mutant and genetically similar wild type sorghum and switchgrass.
2) Test the application of staged thermal conversion to wild type and mutant sorghum and, as appropriate, switchgrass residues that remain after enzymatic treatments. In the extreme, this objective will determine the staged thermal products from residues remaining (i.e., bagasse) after biochemical conversion of polysaccharides to alcohols.
Specific deliverables of this project are (i) verified models that pinpoint relationships between product selectivity and biomass composition, and (ii) switchgrass and sorghum compositional variants (via chemical or genetic modification) with improved thermal conversion product streams. The successful application of this work will add significant economic value to the agricultural industry by providing economic support for perennial crops and crop residue, which may facilitate production of substantial new/recovered acreage, requiring more employment, equipment, etc. High value chemical feedstock production from phenylpropanoid-enriched thermal products is another promising outcome.