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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Microwave-assisted catalytic pyrolysis of biomass for improving bio-oil and biochar properties Mohamed, Badr Ali


This thesis evaluates K₃PO₄, clinoptilolite, bentonite and their combinations as potential additives for enhancing microwave absorption, catalyzing pyrolysis of biomass and improving bio-oil and biochar qualities. Catalyst load ratio, pyrolysis temperature, liquid and solid product yields, bio-oil and biochar properties are examined to screen selected catalysts in terms of their effectiveness in increasing microwave absorption and improving bio-oil and biochar qualities. Thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) was also used to study the catalytic behaviour of those catalysts to interpret its performance in microwave-assisted catalytic pyrolysis and to study the catalytic pyrolysis kinetics for each of the three major biomass components, i.e., hemicellulose, cellulose and lignin, using the lumped three parallel reactions model. The performance of the produced biochars is evaluated in terms of their ability to improve soil water holding capacity (WHC), cation exchange capacity (CEC) and fertility of loamy sand soil. The capacity of those biochars in reducing bioavailability, phytotoxicity and uptake of heavy metals by wheat plants and the efficacy of those biochars in increasing soil fertility and plant growth in contaminated soil were also investigated. K₃PO₄, clinoptilolite and bentonite all showed good catalytic activities in microwave-assisted pyrolysis, resulting in reduced acidity, viscosity and water content of bio-oil product and catalyst loading and combination of different catalysts are controlling parameters on heating rate and product quality. The synergistic effects were observed in the combination of K₃PO₄ and clinoptilolite or bentonite, resulting in higher-than-expected microwave heating rate, in conjunction with improved bio-oil and biochar quality. Biochar produced from mixing K₃PO₄ and clinoptilolite or bentonite with biomass showed better performance in reducing toxicity and uptake of heavy metals than biochars produced from single catalyst. Catalytic microwave-assisted pyrolysis could be one potential approach for tailoring biochar quality to improve soil physiochemical properties. High microwave absorption, high water and nutrient affinity, desirable plant nutrients and high catalytic performance are the four key features of an effective additive for microwave-assisted biomass pyrolysis for making high quality bio-oil and biochars.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International