Insights into Mechanisms of Screw Feeder Plugging by Heated Pine Forestry Residues Using in-situ and Correlative Microscopy

Research output: NRELPoster


Increasing concerns about global carbon emissions due to fossil fuel use has created interest in renewable fuel alternatives, such as lignocellulosic biomass. With an estimated global biomass production probability ten-fold higher than projected need, functionalizing and scaling biomass conversion processes, like pyrolysis, is a promising component of a diverse sustainable energy program (Kan, Strezov, & Evans, 2016). Pyrolysis reactors employed in biomass conversion often encounter the known problem of screw feeder plugging, halting work and reducing efficiency of biorefineries. Although the screw feeder is not heated directly, conductive heat transfer from the fluidized bed pyrolysis reactor creates a temperature gradient, where particles experience temperatures between 22°C and 500°C from the time they enter the feeder to being emptied into the reactor (Digman, Joo, & Kim, 2009; Nieminen & Folke, 1982). The impact of unintentional heating on this highly variable feedstock may result in particle morphology modification, surface texture transformation, and the evolution of viscous compounds and may contribute to screw feeder plugging (Haas, Nimlos, & Donohoe, 2009; Ingram et al., 2008). We hypothesized that particles of various anatomical fractions (including needles, branches, bark, cambium, and whitewood) will experience dramatic changes during this heating regime, which will be characterized by decreased particle size, increased surface roughness, degradation of key structural macromolecules, and generation of viscous compounds that would result in increased particle friction and cohesion, contributing to screw feeder plugging.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2020

Publication series

NamePresented at the Microscopy & Microanalysis 2020 Meeting, 3-7 August 2020

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-2700-77375


  • biofuels
  • biomass feedstocks
  • fast pyrolysis


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