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Analysis of Biomass Composition Using High-Resolution Thermogravimetric Analysis and Percent Bark Content for the Selection of Shrub Willow Bioenergy Crop Varieties

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Rapid determination of biomass composition is critical for the selection of shrub willow varieties with optimized biomass properties for conversion into fuels or chemicals. In order to improve the process for identifying and selecting shrub willow clones with distinct biomass composition, high-resolution thermogravimetric analysis (HR-TGA) was developed as a rapid, low-cost method for analyzing large numbers of willow biomass samples. In order to validate the HR-TGA method, bulk biomass collected from 2-year-old stems of a selected set of 25 shrub willow clones was analyzed using traditional wet chemistry techniques in addition to HR-TGA. The results of the wet chemistry and the HR-TGA method were compared using regression analysis resulting in R-squared values above 0.7 for the three main wood components, cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. Bark was removed from duplicate stem samples of the same clones, the proportion of bark was determined, and the debarked wood was used for HR-TGA analysis of composition. While there were significant differences in the proportions of lignin and cellulose in debarked wood compared to bulk biomass, as well as significant differences in bark percentage among clones, there was no correlation between bark percentage and bulk biomass component analysis. This work validates the effectiveness, precision, and accuracy of HR-TGA as a reasonably high-throughput method for biomass composition analysis and selection of shrub willow bioenergy crop varieties.

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This work was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture-Cooperative State Research, Extension, and Education Service McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Research Program. Michelle Serapiglia was generously supported by the Josiah Lowe and Hugh Wilcox Graduate Scholarship Fund. Appreciation is also expressed to Dr. Larry Abrahamson, Dr. Tim Volk, Dr. Ed White, and Dr. Bill Winter for their support and advice as collaborators in this research, and we are grateful to Mark Appleby, Ken Burns, and David Kiemle for excellent technical support. Special thanks to Dr. Raymond Francis for his assistance with biomass extractions. Thanks also to Hajime Akada for help with sample preparation.

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Correspondence to Lawrence B. Smart.

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Serapiglia, M.J., Cameron, K.D., Stipanovic, A.J. et al. Analysis of Biomass Composition Using High-Resolution Thermogravimetric Analysis and Percent Bark Content for the Selection of Shrub Willow Bioenergy Crop Varieties. Bioenerg. Res. 2, 1–9 (2009).

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