Compositional Analysis of Biomass Reference Materials: Results from an Interlaboratory Study

David W. Templeton, Edward J. Wolfrum, James H. Yen, Katherine E. Sharpless

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Biomass compositional methods are used to compare different lignocellulosic feedstocks, to measure component balances around unit operations and to determine process yields and therefore the economic viability of biomass-to-biofuel processes. Four biomass reference materials (RMs NIST 8491–8494) were prepared and characterized, via an interlaboratory comparison exercise in the early 1990s to evaluate biomass summative compositional methods, analysts, and laboratories. Having common, uniform, and stable biomass reference materials gives the opportunity to assess compositional data compared to other analysts, to other labs, and to a known compositional value. The expiration date for the original characterization of these RMs was reached and an effort to assess their stability and recharacterize the reference values for the remaining material using more current methods of analysis was initiated. We sent samples of the four biomass RMs to 11 academic, industrial, and government laboratories, familiar with sulfuric acid compositional methods, for recharacterization of the component reference values. In this work, we have used an expanded suite of analytical methods that are more appropriate for herbaceous feedstocks, to recharacterize the RMs’ compositions. We report the median values and the expanded uncertainty values for the four RMs on a dry-mass, whole-biomass basis. The original characterization data has been recalculated using median statistics to facilitate comparisons with this data. We found improved total component closures for three out of the four RMs compared to the original characterization, and the total component closures were near 100 %, which suggests that most components were accurately measured and little double counting occurred. The major components were not statistically different in the recharacterization which suggests that the biomass materials are stable during storage and that additional components, not seen in the original characterization, were quantified here.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)303-314
Number of pages12
JournalBioenergy Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, The Author(s).

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-64070


  • biomass reference material
  • compositional analysis
  • Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)
  • Monterey Pine (Pinus radiata)
  • Sugarcane Bagasse (Saccharum spp. Hybrid)
  • Wheat Straw (Triticum aestivum var. Thunderbird)


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