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Algal Biomass Constituent Analysis: Method Uncertainties and Investigation of the Underlying Measuring Chemistries

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posted on 16.12.2015, 21:00 by Lieve M. L. Laurens, Thomas A. Dempster, Howland D. T. Jones, Edward J. Wolfrum, Stefanie Van Wychen, Jordan S. P. McAllister, Michelle Rencenberger, Kylea J. Parchert, Lindsey M. Gloe
Algal biomass compositional analysis data form the basis of a large number of techno-economic process analysis models that are used to investigate and compare different processes in algal biofuels production. However, the analytical methods used to generate these data are far from standardized. This work investigated the applicability of common methods for rapid chemical analysis of biomass samples with respect to accuracy and precision. This study measured lipids, protein, carbohydrates, ash, and moisture of a single algal biomass sample at 3 institutions by 8 independent researchers over 12 separate workdays. Results show statistically significant differences in the results from a given analytical method among laboratories but not between analysts at individual laboratories, suggesting consistent training is a critical issue for empirical analytical methods. Significantly different results from multiple lipid and protein measurements were found to be due to different measurement chemistries. We identified a set of compositional analysis procedures that are in best agreement with data obtained by more advanced analytical procedures. The methods described here and used for the round robin experiment do not require specialized instrumentation, and with detailed analytical documentation, the differences between laboratories can be markedly reduced.