• Feedstocks Analysed at Celignis

Background on MSW

MSW stands for municpal solid waste. This category includes wastes produced by households and local businesses. A large proportion of MSW is biodegradable. Biodegradable municipal waste is composed of wood, various papers and cardboards, and organics (all other biodegradable material; principally food and garden wastes).

Many countries have targets for reducing the amount of biodegradable municipal waste that is sent to landfill. For example, the European Union's Landfill Directive (1999) sets progressive targets to reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste land-filled, when compared against the waste produced in the baseline year of 1995.

Incineration is one of the currently favoured methods for reducing the quantity of biodegradable municipal waste (and all municipal solid waste) that is sent to landfill. Biorefineries that can produce advanced biofuels (often termed cellulosic fuels) from organic materials are another option for valorising biodegradable municipal waste.

Celignis founder Daniel Hayes has considerable experience in the chemical and near-infrared analysis of MSW and has been involved in a research project, funded by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency, that involved collecting, preparing, and characterising a variety of MSW samples. Samples that have been analysed include the organic fraction of black bin wastes, brown-bin wastes, and wastes that have been treated by different MBT (mechanical and biological treatment) technologies. Daniel Hayes has also collected many samples of biomass/wastes that contribute to mixed biodegradable municpal waste and characterised these separately. Such samples include numerous papers and cardboards, as well as green wastes (e.g. lawn cuttings and tree trimmings).

Analysis of MSW at Celignis

Celignis Analytical can determine the following properties of MSW samples:

Lignocellulosic Properties of MSW

Cellulose Content of MSW

The composition of MSW will vary significantly according to the different types of waste that make up the feedstock. For instance, MSW that contains a large proportion of paper/cardboard will have a high cellulose content and a low lignin content.

The chemical composition of MSW also varies significantly over the course of a year, with more green waste in periods when plant productivity is greatest. Food wastes will also vary according to changes in diet over the year.

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Hemicellulose Content of MSW

The hemicellulsoe content of MSW will vary significantly, according to the types of materials present in the waste.

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Lignin Content of MSW

Lignin content in MSW is also highly variable. There are also large differences in the composition of MSW between countries and socioeconomic classes.

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Starch Content of MSW

MSW can contain significant amounts of starch and the starch content can be highly variable throughout the year. A greater proportion of food waste in MSW will tend to increase the starch content of the feedstock.

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Uronic Acid Content of MSW

The total concentration of uronic acids in MSW, and the relative proportions of the different uronic acids, will vary substantially according to the different types of wastes that constitute the MSW sample. For instance, many food wastes can contain significant amounts of pectins and so have relatively large uronic acid contents, whereas the uronic acid contents of papers and cardboards are typical;y very low.

As a result of this, uronic acid content of MSW is likely to vary throughout the year and according to location and diet.

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Enzymatic Hydrolysis of MSW

We can undertake tests involving the enzymatic hydrolysis of MSW. In these experiments we can either use a commercial enzyme mix or you can supply your own enzymes. We also offer analysis packages that compare the enzymatic hydrolysis of a pre-treated sample with that of the native original material.

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Bioenergy Properties of MSW

Ash Content of MSW

The ash content of MSW is highly variable but can be significant in many cases.

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Heating (Calorific) Value of MSW

The heating value of the biomass component of MSW can be low, due to high ash and moisture contents. Non-biomass components in MSW, particularly plastics, can help to increase the heating value of the feedstock.

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Ash Melting Behaviour of MSW

Ash melting, also known as ash fusion and ash softening, can lead to slagging, fouling and corrosion in boilers which may reduce conversion efficiency. We can determine the ash melting behaviour of MSW using our Carbolite CAF G5 BIO ash melting furnace. It can record the following temperatures:

Ash Shrinkage Starting Temperature (SST) - This occurs when the area of the test piece of MSW ash falls below 95% of the original test piece area.

Ash Deformation Temperature (DT) - The temperature at which the first signs of rounding of the edges of the test piece occurs due to melting.

Ash Hemisphere Temperature (HT) - When the test piece of MSW ash forms a hemisphere (i.e. the height becomes equal to half the base diameter).

Ash Flow Temperature (FT) - The temperature at which the MSW ash is spread out over the supporting tile in a layer, the height of which is half of the test piece at the hemisphere temperature.

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Major and Minor Elements in MSW

Examples of major elements that may be present in MSW include potassium and sodium which are present in biomass ash in the forms of oxides. These can lead to fouling, ash deposition in the convective section of the boiler. Alkali chlorides can also lead to slagging, the fusion and sintering of ash particles which can lead to deposits on boiler tubes and walls.

We can also determine the levels of 13 different minor elements (such as arsenic, copper, and zinc) that may be present in MSW.

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Analysis of MSW for Anaerobic Digestion

Biomethane potential (BMP) of MSW

At Celignis we can provide you with crucial data on feedstock suitability for AD as well as on the composition of process residues. For example, we can determine the biomethane potential (BMP) of MSW. The BMP can be considered to be the experimental theoretical maximum amount of methane produced from a feedstock. We moniotor the volume of biogas produced allowing for a cumulative plot over time, accessed via the Celignis Database. Our BMP packages also involve routine analysis of biogas composition (biomethane, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, ammonia, oxygen). We also provide detailed analysis of the digestate, the residue that remains after a sample has been digested. Our expertise in lignocellulosic analysis can allow for detailed insight regarding the fate of the different biogenic polymers during digestion.

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Physical Properties of MSW

Bulk Density of MSW

At Celignis we can determine the bulk density of biomass samples, including MSW, according to ISO standard 17828 (2015). This method requires the biomass to be in an appropriate form (chips or powder) for density determination.

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Particle Size of MSW

Our lab is equipped with a Retsch AS 400 sieve shaker. It can accommodate sieves of up to 40 cm diameter, corresponding to a surface area of 1256 square centimetres. This allows us to determine the particle size distribution of a range of samples, including MSW, by following European Standard methods EN 15149- 1:2010 and EN 15149-2:2010.

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Publications on MSW By The Celignis Team

Hayes, D. J. M. (2011) Analysis of Lignocellulosic Feedstocks for Biorefineries with a Focus on The Development of Near Infrared Spectroscopy as a Primary Analytical Tool, PhD Thesis832 pages (over 2 volumes)


The processing of lignocellulosic materials in modern biorefineries will allow for the production of transport fuels and platform chemicals that could replace petroleum-derived products. However, there is a critical lack of relevant detailed compositional information regarding feedstocks relevant to Ireland and Irish conditions. This research has involved the collection, preparation, and the analysis, with a high level of precision and accuracy, of a large number of biomass samples from the waste and agricultural sectors. Not all of the waste materials analysed are considered suitable for biorefining; for example the total sugar contents of spent mushroom composts are too low. However, the waste paper/cardboard that is currently exported from Ireland has a chemical composition that could result in high biorefinery yields and so could make a significant contribution to Irelandís biofuel demands.

Miscanthus was focussed on as a major agricultural feedstock. A large number of plants have been sampled over the course of the harvest window (October to April) from several sites. These have been separated into their anatomical fractions and analysed. This has allowed observations to be made regarding the compositional trends observed within plants, between plants, and between harvest dates. Projections are made regarding the extents to which potential chemical yields may vary. For the DIBANET hydrolysis process that is being developed at the University of Limerick, per hectare yields of levulinic acid from Miscanthus could be 20% greater when harvested early compared with a late harvest.

The wet-chemical analysis of biomass is time-consuming. Near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) has been developed as a rapid primary analytical tool with separate quantitative models developed for the important constituents of Miscanthus, peat, and (Australian) sugarcane bagasse. The work has demonstrated that accurate models are possible, not only for dry homogenous samples, but also for wet heterogeneous samples. For glucose (cellulose) the root mean square error of prediction (RMSEP) for wet samples is 1.24% and the R2 for the validation set ( ) is 0.931. High accuracies are even possible for minor analytes; e.g. for the rhamnose content of wet Miscanthus samples the RMSEP is 0.03% and the is 0.845. Accurate models have also been developed for pre-treated Miscanthus samples and are discussed. In addition, qualitative models have been developed. These allow for samples to be discriminated for on the basis of plant fraction, plant variety (giganteus/non-giganteus), harvest-period (early/late), and stand-age (one-year/older).

Quantitative NIRS models have also been developed for peat, although the heterogeneity of this feedstock means that the accuracies tend to be lower than for Miscanthus. The development of models for sugarcane bagasse has been hindered, in some cases, by the limited chemical variability between the samples in the calibration set. Good models are possible for the glucose and total sugars content, but the accuracy of other models is poorer. NIRS spectra of Brazilian bagasse samples have been projected onto these models, and onto those developed for Miscanthus, and the Miscanthus models appear to provide a better fit than the Australian bagasse models.

Examples of Other Feedstocks Analysed at Celignis