Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Darrin L. Smith

Department Affiliation


Second Advisor

Pei Gao

Department Affiliation


Third Advisor

Tanea T. Reed

Department Affiliation



Fermentation science, the study of microorganisms as they digest food sources to produce usable products for consumption, has been around since the dawn of modern civilization. Historically, the fermentation process has been utilized for the production of alcoholic beverages. More recently, however, the production of bioethanol and biodiesel as a fuel source alternative to classical fossil fuels has gained increased popularity. As with any synthetic process, derivations and optimizations for ideal production are needed. As such, analytical techniques must be implemented to ensure quality control and pinnacle efficiency. This body of work describes analytical techniques providing key qualitative and quantitative information about various steps in the fermentation process. Experiences and conclusions drawn about biofuel production are described in two quantitative projects: Storage Analysis of Sugar Saccharification using Ultrahigh Performance Liquid Chromatography using Corona Charged Aerosol Detection (UPLC-CAD), and Thermal Energy Quantitation of Residual Biomass Using Oxygen Bomb Calorimetry (OBC).

The first major technique employs liquid chromatography to separate and quantitate major sugars (xylose and glucose) in the saccharification of biomass (switchgrass). Storage conditions can determine the economic viability of switchgrass as an alternative fuel source. As such, the extent of degradation of switchgrass over a course of one year, and limitations of useable sugars produced needed to be assessed. Results showed no significant loss in sugar production over the course of one year from three distinct storage conditions. From an industrial perspective, this provides low cost storage with minimal to no loss in bioethanol and biodiesel. In addition to biofuels, biomass, switchgrass for example, can be used directly as a combustion source to produce thermal energy. The energy produced (BTU/lb.) can be used mainly to power boiler systems or residential stoves to provide heat, and electricity through a steam turbine. Using OBC, the amount of thermal energy produced by biomass, was obtained and similar degradation studies were accessed. As with the sugar production, the extent of degradation was found to be insignificant.

An additional preliminary study explored as an alternative to the pretreatment phase: Ionic Liquid (IL) pretreatment of lignin, characterized by Direct Analysis in Real Time Mass Spectrometry (DART-MS). The goal of these projects was the development of methods to characterize and quantitate specific products during major stages of biofuel production applied which can be easily to many fermentation studies. These methods can then be used as a template for further fermentation studies, both in biofuel and alcoholic beverage production.