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Faculty Mentor

Stephen P. Gent

Abstract

The research objective of this study is to examine the behavior of chopped corn stover biomass as it undergoes a variety of mechanical loading conditions. Biomass materials, including corn stover, have unique properties that make it challenging to effectively and efficiently feed into thermochemical conversion systems that produce biofuels and bioproducts. These properties include large particle size, fibrous structure, and low density, to name a few. The most common difficulty in creating a system like this for corn stover is plugging within mechanical and pneumatic feeding systems. It is hypothesized that the material properties of fibrous corn stover contribute to its flowability characteristics. By placing different corn stover samples under varying loading conditions, the spectrum of physical properties of this fibrous agricultural residue can be better understood to analyze these previous issues. First, several corn stalk samples were placed in a three-point bending apparatus in order to analyze the energy requirements to chop a stalk, as well as to obtain a quantitative value for the fiber strength and resistance. This is important to make chopping operations more efficient. Then, a bulk solid shearing test was performed in order to determine some of the fluid-like properties associated with chopped biomass, such as internal friction. This is one of the properties that lead to consistent plugging in a piping system. By combining these two tests with future studies, a material database can be created for fibrous corn stover in order to better understand their flow and feeding characteristics.

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