Defence of doctoral thesis: Atanu Kumar Das – Production and characterisation of pine wood powders from a multi-blade shaft mill
Wood is an important raw material for the manufacture of consumer products and in achieving societal goals for greater sustainability. Wood powders are feedstock for many biorefining and conversion techniques, including chemical, enzymatic and thermochemical processes and for composite manufacture, 3D printing and wood pellet production. Size reduction, therefore, is a key operation in wood utilisation and powder characteristics, such as shape, particle size distribution and micromorphology play a role in powder quality and end-use application. While in a green state, the native chemical composition and structure of wood are preserved. Powders are commonly produced from wood chips using impact mills, which require pre-sized, pre-screened and pre-dried chips. These steps necessitate repeated handling, intermediate storage and contribute to dry matter losses, operation-based emissions and the degradation of the wood chemistry.
This thesis investigated a new size reduction technology, known as the multi-blade shaft mill (MBSM). The MBSM performance was studied through the milling of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) wood using a designed series of experiments and through modelling with multi-linear regression (MLR) analyses. Light microscopy combined with histochemical techniques were used to investigate particle micromorphology and distribution of native extractives in powders. The aim was to evaluate the technical performance of the MBSM with relation to operational parameters, to characterise the produced powders and to evaluate the technology through comparison with impact milling.
The results showed that the MBSM could effectively mill both green and dry wood. Produced powders showed distinct differences compared to those obtained using a hammer mill (HM). The specific milling energy of the MBSM was lowest for green wood and within the range of other established size reduction technologies. However, much narrower particle size distributions were observed in MBSM powders and they had significantly greater amounts of finer particles. Particles with high aspect ratio and sphericity were a characteristic of MBSM powders and this was true for wood milled above and below its fibre saturation point. MBSM powders from green wood showed evidence of higher specific surface area, larger pore volume and greater micropore diameter than those from HM powder. Preliminary microscopic examination suggested that cell walls in MBSM powders showed evidence of retaining their original native wood structure. Consequently, their extractive content appeared intact. This was in contrast to HM powder and it may reflect the differences between the two size reduction mechanisms. According to the produced MLR models, the results suggest that MBSM milling is more akin to a sawing process and opposite to that of impact-based mills.
Keywords: wood milling, powder technology, multi-blade shaft mill, size reduction, powder characterisation, experimental design, wood microscopy, particle size distribution
Author’s address: Atanu Kumar Das, SLU, Department of Forest Biomaterials and Technology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SE-90 183 Umeå, Sweden. E- mail: firstname.lastname@example.org