A $25,000 donation from Texas entrepreneur Randy Hill and his company, APT Advanced Trailer and Equipment LP, to the University of Idaho has funded research focused on converting woody biomass to energy.
The gift has allowed the university to install a pilot-scale pyrolysis unit at its steam plant. Pyrolysis is a type of incineration that uses almost no oxygen. When applied to an organic material like wood, pyrolysis yields biofuel plus a small amount of charcoal.
Armando McDonald, professor of wood chemistry and wood composites, researches pyrolysis of woody biomass to create bio-oil.
“This involves thermally cracking the wood to break it down into smaller molecules,” said McDonald. “The process yields about 60 percent bio-oil; 20 percent syngas, a gas mixture that is then used to fuel the operation; and about 20 percent char that can be used as a soil amendment.”