Characterization of Pyrolysis Feedstocks and Biochars by SEM and TGA


Understanding the composition and properties of a biomass feedstock is critical to understanding and predicting the properties of that feedstock’s pyrolysis products. In this project, the thermal decomposition of biomass-derived and non-biomass-derived components of a NASA spacecraft waste simulant will be measured by thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) to understand the volatilization rates. Those volatilization rates will be used to design a pyrolysis heating program.
All biomass materials contain mineral matter to some degree; some of that mineral material is retained in the char fraction and some is partitioned into the liquid or gas phase. In this project, the location and concentration of different inorganic elements in halophyte biomass and in halophyte biochars will be measured using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) with different kinds of detectors. The information will be used to understand the transformation of minerals during pyrolysis and the retention of salts in biochars during water leaching.

Completion Objectives:

• Complete training in operation of SEM and TGA instruments.
• Collect TGA curves for individual materials from NASA waste simulant recipe and combine TGA curves with component mass fractions to produce a simulated whole sample devolatilization curve.
• Collect scanning electron micrographs of halophyte biomass and biochar materials, focusing on the locations of alkali and alkaline earth metals.

Faculty Advisor:


Required Competencies

CHME 306, CHEM 116

Student Researcher:

Sterling Ellis

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