NIR and Py-mbms Coupled with Multivariate Data Analysis as a High-Throughput Biomass Characterization Technique: A Review

Li Xiao, Hui Wei, Michael E. Himmel, Hasan Jameel, Stephen S. Kelley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus Citations


Optimizing the use of lignocellulosic biomass as the feedstock for renewable energy production is currently being developed globally. Biomass is a complex mixture of cellulose, hemicelluloses, lignins, extractives, and proteins; as well as inorganic salts. Cell wall compositional analysis for biomass characterization is laborious and time consuming. In order to characterize biomass fast and efficiently, several high through-put technologies have been successfully developed. Among them, near infrared spectroscopy (NIR) and pyrolysis-molecular beam mass spectrometry (Py-mbms) are complementary tools and capable of evaluating a large number of raw or modified biomass in a short period of time. NIR shows vibrations associated with specific chemical structures whereas Py-mbms depicts the full range of fragments from the decomposition of biomass. Both NIR vibrations and Py-mbms peaks are assigned to possible chemical functional groups and molecular structures. They provide complementary information of chemical insight of biomaterials. However, it is challenging to interpret the informative results because of the large amount of overlapping bands or decomposition fragments contained in the spectra. In order to improve the efficiency of data analysis, multivariate analysis tools have been adapted to define the significant correlations among data variables, so that the large number of bands/peaks could be replaced by a small number of reconstructed variables representing original variation. Reconstructed data variables are used for sample comparison (principal component analysis) and for building regression models (partial least square regression) between biomass chemical structures and properties of interests. In this review, the important biomass chemical structures measured by NIR and Py-mbms are summarized.The advantages and disadvantages of conventional data analysis methods and multivariate data analysis methods are introduced, compared and evaluated. This review aims to serve as a guide for choosing the most effective data analysis methods for NIR and Py-mbms characterization of biomass.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number388
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Issue numberAUG
StatePublished - 7 Aug 2014

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2700-62939


  • Biomass characterization
  • Chemometrics
  • High throughput
  • Lignocellulosic biofuel
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Multivariate data analysis
  • Near infrared spectroscopy
  • Pyrolysis molecular beam


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