Effect of thermal and alkaline pretreatment of giant miscanthus and Chinese fountaingrass on biogas production

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Giant miscanthus (Miscanthus×giganteus) and Chinese fountaingrass (Pennisetum alopecuroides (L.) Spreng), cultivated for landscaping and soil conservation, are potential energy crops. The study investigated the effect of combined thermal and alkaline pretreatments on biogas production of these energy crops. The pretreatment included two types of alkali (6% CaO and 6% NaOH) at 22, 70 and 100 °C. The alkaline pretreatment resulted in a greater breakdown of the hemicellulose fraction, with CaO more effective than NaOH. Pretreatment of giant miscanthus with 6% CaO at 100 °C for 24 h produced a CH4 yield (313 mL g−1 volatile solids (VS)) that was 1.7 times that of the untreated sample (186 mL g−1 VS). However, pretreatment of Chinese fountaingrass with 6% CaO or 6% NaOH at 70 °C for 24 h resulted in similar CH4 yields (328 and 302 mL g−1 VS for CaO and NaOH pretreatments) as the untreated sample (311 mL g−1 VS). Chinese fountaingrass was more easily digestible but had a low overall CH4 yield per hectare (1,831 m3 ha−1 y−1) compared to giant miscanthus (6,868 m3 ha−1 y−1). This study demonstrates the potential of thermal/alkaline pretreatment and the use of giant miscanthus and Chinese fountaingrass for biogas production.

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