Thorne Group Research and Education

Department of Physics

Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics

Cornell UniversityIthaca, NY • 14853 • (607)255-6487

Biomass Combustion

Small and medium scale biomass heating applications use outdoor boilers fed by split and/or chipped wood, and pellet stoves fed by wood pellets. These combustion systems have long warm-up and cool-down times and allow limited temperature control. They also can have poor emissions performance, especially during warm-up and cool-down, and are major contributors to particulate air pollution in many parts of the Northeast and Northwest.

An alternative approach is to use powdered biomass. A local company has shown that sufficiently fine wood powders can be dispersed in air and spark or arc ignited to produce standing flames similar to those of fuel oil based heaters. These flames can be turned on and off with a switch, and appear to produce extremely low emissions. We are characterizing prototype burner performance using emissions and other measurements, and then using this information to develop improved powderded biomass combustion systems.