Flow characterization of compressible particulate biomass materials
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Biomass materials like trees and crops can be converted to biochemical products and have been considered as one of the most promising alternatives for energy and fuels due to their abundance and easy access. However, the commercialization of bioenergy has been significantly constrained by severe issues during the handling of particulate biomass materials, manifested as unstable flow and jamming in handling equipment such as hoppers, feeders, or conveyors. Solving these issues centers on the mechanistic understanding of the flowability of milled biomass materials and their rheological and constitutive behaviors in various industrial equipment. This thesis investigates the flow behavior of milled woody biomass across multiple scales and flow regimes. The study experimentally quantifies the mechanical and rheological properties of particulate biomass at particle, meso, and industrial scales, complemented by FEM simulations of biomass flow through hoppers and inclined planes at meso and industrial scales. The jamming physics of woody particles in wedge-shaped hoppers is analyzed in consideration of hopper geometry, particle density, packing, and surcharge. With these results, parameters governing the arching, mass flow, and funnel flow of milled biomass through industry hoppers are identified. These findings enable the design and optimization of industry hoppers for the efficient handling of milled woody biomass. In addition, the constitutive model characterizing the flow of milled woody biomass at both quasi-static and dynamic flow regimes is formulated and validated against laboratory data. In the end, the impacts of moisture content on the mechanical and flow behavior of milled woody biomass are evaluated. This study promotes the fundamental understanding of the flow physics of milled biomass materials across various scales, fosters high-fidelity numerical prediction models of the constitutive responses of compressible particulate biomass, and enables the development of the next-generation high-efficiency biomass handling equipment to reduce the cost and increase the safety of feedstock processing.