Brigham Young University, USA
Title: Microbial pretreatment of biomass for renewable energy production
Jaron Hansen is a Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah, USA) and co-founder of Verde and Anaerobic Digestion Technologies (AD Tec). His research involves improving the understanding of atmospheric and environmental chemical processes through focused laboratory, field and computational studies as well as the development of improved anaerobic digestion methods for enhanced production of biogas and for degradation of hazardous pollutants.
Without pretreatment, anaerobic digestion of lignocellulosic biomass typically converts only one-third of the carbon into biogas which is typically only 60% methane. Physical and chemical pretreatments to increase biogas production from biomass have proven to be uneconomical. The anaerobic thermophile, Caldicellulosiruptor bescii, has been shown to be capable of solubilizing up to 90% of lignocellulose, thus making the carbon accessible for anaerobic digestion. Preliminary experiments show C. bescii is capable of solubilizing a wide range of lignocellulosic materials. Anaerobic digestion readily and rapidly converts the soluble products into biogas with 70-80% methane. Isothermal biomicrocalorimetry measurements have provided a thermodynamic understanding of the process. We have applied the pretreatment-anaerobic digestion process to giant king grass and found the biogas yield significantly improved. Biomass Energy Solutions Technology, BEST, is currently collecting data on the pretreatment process with C. bescii and engineering system prototypes to prove feasibility for scale-up to megawatt facilities.