Comparison of the Effects of Thermal Pretreatment, Steam Explosion and Ultrasonic Disintegration on Digestibility of Corn Stover
The energy demand of the corn-based bioethanol production could be reduced using the agricultural byproducts as bioenergy feedstock for biogas digesters. The release of lignocellulosic material and therefore the acceleration of degradation processes can be achieved using thermal and mechanical pretreatments, which assist to hydrolyze the cell walls and speed the solubilization of biopolymers in biogas feedstock. This study is focused on liquid hot water, steam explosion and ultrasonic pretreatments of corn stover. The scientific contribution of this paper is a comprehensive comparison of the performance of the pretreatments by fast analytical, biochemical, anaerobic digestibility and biomethane potential tests, extended by energy consumptions and energy balance calculations. The effectiveness of pretreatments was evaluated by means of soluble chemical oxygen demand, biochemical oxygen demand and by the biogas and methane productivities. The results have shown that the thermal pretreatment, steam explosion and ultrasonic irradiation of biogas feedstock disintegrated the lignocellulosic structure, increased and accelerated the methane production and increased the cumulative biogas and methane productivity of corn stover in reference to the control during mesophilic anaerobic digestion. The energy balance demonstrated that there is an economical basis of the application of the liquid hot-compressed water pretreatments in a biogas plant. However, the steam explosion and ultrasonication are energetically not profitable for corn stover pretreatment.