Flowability of Crumbler Rotary Shear Size-Reduced Granular Biomass: An Experiment-Informed Modeling Study on the Angle of Repose


Biomass has potential as a carbon-neutral alternative to petroleum for chemical and energy products. However, complete replacement of fossil fuel is contingent upon efficient processes to eliminate undesirable characteristics of biomass, e.g., low bulk density, variability, and storage-induced quality problems. Mechanical size reduction via comminution is a processing operation to engineer favorable biomass flowability in handling. Crumbler rotary shear mill has been empirically demonstrated to produce more uniformly shaped particles with higher flowability than hammermilled biomass. This study combines modeling and experimentation to unveil fundamental understandings of the relation between granular particle characteristics and biomass flow behavior, which elucidate underlying mechanisms and guide selection of critical processing parameters. For this purpose, the impact of critical material attributes, including particle size (2–6 mm), particle shape (briquette, chip, clumped-sphere, cube, etc.), and surface roughness, on the angle of repose (AOR) of milled pine chips were investigated using discrete element method (DEM) simulations. Forest Concepts Crumbler rotary shear system is used to produce milled pine particles within the same size range considered in DEM simulations. AOR of different sets of these particles were measured experimentally to benchmark DEM results against experimental data. Specific energy consumption for the comminution of biomass with different particle size and moisture content are measured for technoeconomic analysis. Our results show that the smaller size (2 mm) of pine particle achieves better followability (i.e., smaller AOR) while the energy cost of comminution is significantly higher and bulk density is almost the same as the 6-mm pine particles. For the 2-mm particle size, Crumbles from veneer have better flow properties than Crumbles from chips. Contrarily, no significant difference was observed between the AOR of the two materials for the 6-mm particle size. Furthermore, from DEM simulations, mechanical interlocking between particles was found as a dominant factor in determining AOR of complex-shaped particles such as milled pine, which cannot be accurately captured by using simple particle shapes (e.g., mono-sphere) with a rolling resistance model. Conversely, clumped-sphere model alleviates this limitation without increasing computational cost significantly and can be used for accurate representation of biomass granular particles when simulating free-flow behavior.


Hamed, A., Xia, Y., Saha, N., Klinger, J., Lanning, D. N., & Dooley, J. (2022). Flowability of Crumbler Rotary Shear Size-Reduced Granular Biomass: An Experiment-Informed Modeling Study on the Angle of Repose [Original Research]. Frontiers in Energy Research, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fenrg.2022.859248


Ahmed Hamed, Yidong Xia, Nepu Saha, Jordan Klinger, David N. Lanning and Jim Dooley

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