EGEE 439
Alternative Fuels from Biomass Sources

Lesson 5: Biomass Pyrolysis and Pretreatment


This week’s lesson continues with thermal processes for biomass conversion, this time concentrating on pyrolysis; pyrolysis is heating a material in an inert environment. In addition to providing an in-depth explanation of this process, this lesson will also discuss the various chemical structures found in biomass (essentially in lignocellulosic biomass) and pretreatments that are done to make the materials more amenable for fuels production.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • explain how pyrolysis is different from gasification and combustion;
  • explain how the products are made and used as fuels and chemicals;
  • determine which thermal process is best to use depending on biomass source and product utilization;
  • describe the basic chemical structures of biomass, namely lignocellulosic biomass;
  • evaluate pretreatment options for lignocellullosic options and explain why thay are necessary.

Lesson 5 Road Map

This lesson will take us one week to complete. Please refer to the Course Syllabus for specific time frames and due dates. Specific directions for the assignment below can be found within this lesson.

Steps for Completing Lesson 5
Step Activity Access/Directions
1 Read Wald, Matthew. "On the Horizon, Planes Powered by Plant Fuel." New York TImes 17 Jan. 2012. 5.4
2 Read "Obama’s Pitch on Energy." New York Times 14 Feb. 2012, The Opinion Pages sec. 5.4
3 Read Laughlin, Robert B. Powering the Future: How We Will (eventually) Solve the Energy Crisis and Fuel the Civilization of Tomorrow . New York: Basic, 2011. Print. (Chapter 3) 5.4
4 Homework #5 5.4
5 Discussion #5 5.4
6 Exam #2 5.4


If you have any questions, please send them to All Course Instructors through ANGEL e-mail. I will check daily to respond. If your question is one that is relevant to the entire class, I may respond to the entire class rather than individually.