February 24, 2009

Shredding corn silage

A Purdue University researcher says shedding corn stover saves about 40 percent of the energy needed to process cellulosic material to make ethanol.

Purdue Associate Professor Dennis Buckmaster said shredding corn silage provides better access to cellulose, which is the main part of plant cell walls necessary to make ethanol.

Buckmaster says he placed chopped and shredded corn stalks in water and compared the amount of leachates in each solution. A leachate is any plant substance that's dissolved from a plant or soil when it is placed in water.

He said he determined shredded corn stalks produced about 11 percent more leachates than chopped corn stalks and 5 percent more than stalks that had been chopped and put through a roller, giving ethanol makers potentially more cellulose for less cost.

Buckmaster said shredding corn stalks increases the surface area of the plant material. And because stalks can be shredded along the grain of the plants, like splitting a log with an ax, it takes less energy.

Buckmaster's study was published in the last 2008 issue of Transactions of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.