Advancements in thermochemical modification of wood for bioenergy and biomaterial applications

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


This chapter explores recent work related to thermochemical modification of low-value woody biomass to produce high-value products for use in bioenergy and biofuel applications. Through thermochemical modification (i.e., pretreatment), woody biomass can be transformed into materials that have higher calorific values and improved electrical properties. In this chapter, advancements in research related to torrefaction and carbonization (i.e., pyrolysis) are discussed, along with the development of densified torrefied pellets and carbon materials. Torrefaction of woody biomass is a less severe thermochemical treatment that results in higher-value materials that can be used in energy applications as a substitute for coal and as a filler material for composites. To advance the use of torrefied woody biomass as a coal replacement fuel, densification technology is a key for improving storage and transportation. This chapter explores some key processing variables and their relationship to pellet quality. In addition, the relative carbon content of woody biomass is increased through pyrolysis. These carbonized materials can be used for fuel cells, energy storage, and as a filler and potential reinforcement in a variety of composite materials. During pyrolysis of wood, the porosity of the resulting material increases. In general, porous carbon materials are classified as microporous (<2 nm), mesoporous (2–50 nm), and macroporous (>50 nm) based on their pore diameters. This chapter focuses on research related to mesoporous carbon that has the ability to provide fast mass transport of molecules and large specific surface areas. These two properties are essential in many advanced energy storage and conversion applications.

Publication Title

Practices and Perspectives in Sustainable Bioenergy