TOPEKA, Kan. — Researchers in Kansas and China are using mathematical modeling to improve the process of converting wheat straw into pellets for the production of ethanol.

Wheat straw, the plant residue left after wheat harvest, is abundant in Kansas. The straw has low commercial value, but one use for it is fuel production, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported .

Pellets can be more easily handled and transported to ethanol processing plants, where ethanol extracted from them can be substituted for fossil fuels.

“Mathematical modeling is a powerful tool because it can save both the time and resources required for experimental studies,” said Zhenzhen Shi of the Kansas State University’s Institute of Computational and Comparative Medicine.

Scientists at the Kansas State and at Yangzhou University in China published work in the Journal Applied Energy outlining their investigation into issues with biomass temperature rise during pellet production, which can undermine ethanol output. Risk factors of temperature rise were calculated and tested, said Majid Jaberi-Douraki, assistant math professor at Kansas State.

“By applying the model recommendation to experiments, we found out the percentage of burned-out pellets was reduced, while the pellet density, pellet durability and sugar yield from pellets were significantly improved,” Shi said.

Their work was partially supported by National Science Foundation and the Kansas Bioscience Authority.


Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com