Characterization and alkaline pretreatment of rice husk varieties in Uganda for potential utilization as precursors in the production of activated carbon and other value-added products
In this study, 13 rice husk (RH) varieties from 4 agro-ecological zones in Uganda were characterized, NaOH-pretreated, and evaluated for their potential utilization as precursors for production of bio-oil, ash, char, and activated carbon for selected applications. RH varieties were characterized through particle size analysis, bulk density, proximate and ultimate analyses, specific surface area, pore volume, as well as lignocellulosic and inorganic compositions. Selected RH varieties were subsequently pretreated at NaOH concentrations of 1–4%w/v, using pretreatment ratios of 5 g RH: 40 mL NaOH. Properties varied among RH varieties, suiting them as feedstocks for different applications. Upland rice husk varieties are more suited precursors for production of bio-oil, and activated carbon due to their relatively lower ash content, higher specific surface area, as well as higher volatile matter and fixed carbon contents. Upland rice husks could as well be employed in the preparation of electrodes for electrochemical devices, due to their relatively higher specific surface area. A high ash content (21–32% dry basis) of lowland rice husks presents good prospects for their calcination, since larger amounts of rice husk ash could be obtained, and employed in different applications. Lowland rice husk varieties could also be more suited precursors for production of char for soil amendment, due to their relatively higher ash content, which subsequently increases their char yields. However, alkaline pretreatment of rice husks using 2–4%w/v NaOH can reduce the ash content by as much as 74–93%, depending on the rice husk variety, which paves way for utilizing rice husks with a high ash content in different applications. Aside from ash reduction, the enhanced specific surface area (1.2–1.7 m2 g-1), volatile matter (68–79%db) and fixed carbon (19–24%db) contents of NaOH-pretreated rice husks suggests they are more suited feedstocks than when employed in their raw form, for production of bio-oil, as well as activated carbon.