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During the fall of 2014, researchers used the cyclonic Tempest dryer to dry food waste material.

During the fall of 2014, researchers used the cyclonic Tempest dryer to dry food waste material.

BCRF's Biomass Preparation Services are in High Demand

Since 2009, the Iowa State University BioCentury Research Farm (BCRF) has been providing biomass feedstock preparation services to industry clients and university researchers for their biofuels, bioproducts and animal feed projects.

The farm offers a range of services including short- and long-term storage of biomass, grinding or milling material to specified sizes, drying to different moisture levels and pelleting or briquetting ground material.

And these services are in high demand.

The BCRF is currently one of the few research facilities in the nation capable of grinding and sizing large quantities of feedstocks while still accommodating small-quantity projects.

“Depending on size requirements, we are able to process up to 4 tons of biomass material per day,” said Andy Suby, BCRF facility manager. “We can also mill down to 0.02 inches with our hammermills and sieve even finer if necessary.”

To date, the BCRF has processed nearly 80 tons of material.

A BCRF student employee uses the pilot-scale hammermill to process woody material.
A BCRF student employee uses the pilot-scale hammermill to process woody material.

Suby said that includes a long list of different feedstocks: corn and soybean stover, oat hulls, switchgrass, wheat and oat straw, eucalyptus, loblolly pine, red oak, forest residue, bone meal, alfalfa, aspen, cottonwood, pine and food waste.

“Materials processed at the BCRF have found their way into a wide variety of projects and products including fuels, chemicals and value-added products. Corn stover has found its way into ethanol and cellulosic gasoline production as well as oils, sugars, asphalt binder and other applications.”

To process all that material, the farm has pilot-scale equipment including various mills, grinders, sieve shakers, a cyclonic dryer, a belt dryer, a rotary steam tube dryer and a bale processor. Material can be milled with screen sizes ranging from 0.02 inches to 2 inches and dried from 60 percent moisture down to 15 percent, up to 2.5 tons per day.

The farm also has a dust-free control room to oversee drying and grinding and features a computer interface that can operate the entire system of conveyor belts, surge hoppers, a hammermill and dryer. A fine particle biomass preparation lab is also available for fine grinding and sieving that can accommodate 12 independent equipment stations.

Over 30 companies and Iowa State researchers have sent material to be processed at the farm.

Kurt Rosentrater, an associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering and a BCRF affiliate, has utilized many BCRF biomass preparation services for his projects. He said that he and his research team are at the farm two to three times a month to mill and dry various feed ingredients, typically processing 1–2 tons a year.

Last year, Rosentrater ground and dried approximately 2,000 pounds of food waste mixed with corn stover to develop animal feed ingredients. The BCRF’s Vermeer horizontal grinder and the large cyclonic Tempest dryer were used to process the material quickly.

Rosentrater said that having access to the BCRF’s equipment has been very beneficial.

“The capacities available at the farm are much greater than those we currently have available on campus,” he said.

Suby said he doesn’t see the demand for the farm’s biomass preparation services decreasing any time soon.

”Many companies and groups are trying out different types and sizes of biomass in their processes, and we help provide them with the feedstock they are looking for to move forward in their research.”

For more information about the BCRF’s biomass preparation services, contact Suby at (515) 296-6300 or asuby@iastate.edu.

Bioeconomy Institute researchers use the Beltomatic drying system to dry pine mulch from 65 percent moisture down to 15 percent.

Bioeconomy Institute researchers use the Beltomatic drying system to dry pine mulch from 65 percent moisture down to 15 percent.