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BioCORN 2011 Science and Background

Science Questions

  1. What are the dominant VOCs from biofuel crops: corn, poplars, switchgrass, and Miscanthus?
  2. What are the likely oxidation products?
  3. What is the total aerosol and ozone forming potential?
  4. What biofuel plant species and/or cultivars have the lowest VOC/SVOC emissions?


Phase 1: laboratory and greenhouse measurements (ongoing, one paper published, one draft)

Phase 2: small scale leaf cuvette study in the field (first draft paper)

Phase 3: flux measurements in the field large scale (this field project this summer)

  • Intensive I: Growing season (July 14- July 28)
  • Intensive II: Corn ears development (Aug 15- Aug 31)

Why a corn field

  • Little information on VOC emissions in literature from corn or switchgrass
  • Leaf cuvette studies showed much larger emissions from corn than switchgrass
  • Corn is largest biofuel crop

Corn and Ethanol production

  • In 2009 35 million ha corn were planted in the US
  • 92% harvested for corn, 6% for silage
  • In 2009 260 million barrel fuel ethanol produced in US (~10% US petroleum)
  • In 2009 about 30% of US corn (10.3 million ha) used for fuel ethanol production