Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Iowa State researchers helping to take the natural gas out of ethanol production

28.09.2006
It takes a lot of natural gas to run an ethanol plant. A plant needs steam to liquefy corn starch and heat to distill alcohol and more heat to dry the leftover distillers grains.

Burning natural gas to produce all that heat is the second largest expense at most ethanol plants -- trailing only the cost of the corn used for ethanol production. One estimate says Iowa's annual production of more than one billion gallons of ethanol accounts for about 16 percent of the state's demand for natural gas.

That has Iowa State University researchers working with an Ames company to develop a renewable and cost effective alternative to the natural gas burned by most ethanol plants.

The technology involves partial combustion of biomass -- that could include corn stalks, distillers grains, waste wood or other biorenewables -- to produce a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, methane and other flammable gases. The resulting mixture is known as producer gas and it can replace natural gas in an ethanol plant's heaters. The producer gas can also be upgraded to what's known as syngas, a mixture that can be converted into high-value transportation fuels, alcohols, hydrogen, ammonia and other chemicals.

Producer gas is made by injecting biomass into a fluidized bed gasifier, a thermal system that pumps air up through a bed of hot sand, creating bubbles and a sand-air pseudo fluid. A reaction between the biomass and the hot sand-air mixture produces flammable gases. The process also generates its own heat to sustain the reaction. It's a system that's reliable, produces few emissions and can be efficiently integrated into a plant's existing natural gas boilers and dryers.

Iowa State researchers Robert C. Brown, the Bergles Professor in Thermal Science and Iowa Farm Bureau Director of the Office of Biorenewables Programs; Ted Heindel, a professor of mechanical engineering; and Francine Battaglia, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, are working with Frontline BioEnergy, an Ames company that produces biomass gasification systems, to study and design a gasifier large enough to produce energy for an ethanol plant. The project is partially supported by a $132,274 grant from the Grow Iowa Values Fund, a state economic development program.

Heindel will work with Nathan Franka, a master's student in mechanical engineering, to observe and measure a fluidized bed in action. They'll use Iowa State's $640,145 X-ray flow visualization facility to see through a test bed that's six inches in diameter. They'll be looking to see what happens inside the fluidized bed when biomass is injected. Heindel will take X-ray radiography, X-ray computed tomography and X-ray stereography images of the flows to measure local conditions.

Battaglia will work with Mirka Deza, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering, to simulate the results of Heindel's tests using computational fluid dynamics. The idea is to run simulations and compare the results with data from the fluidized bed experiments. If the results don't match, the researchers will have to figure out why and the computational models may require modifications. Iowa State's "Lightning," a new high-performance computer capable of 1.8 trillion calculations per second, will provide the computational power for the simulations.

Battaglia said the validated computer models can help Frontline BioEnergy make appropriate design changes. Using the computer models to assist with the design work is much cheaper and faster than building prototypes and running experiments, she said. That's because designers can change parameters and quickly analyze how each change affects performance. Besides, she said, researchers can't look inside a real gasifier to see what's happening.

John Reardon, the research and development manager for Frontline BioEnergy, said the

Iowa State research will provide the company with insights about the mixing that happens inside a fluidized bed gasifier. That will help the company design improved commercial-scale gasifiers capable of processing 300 tons or more of biomass per day. A diagnostic tool developed as part of the research project will also help the company avoid problems in the fluidized bed and maximize the reliability of those gasifiers.

All that can be a boon to an industry that produces an alternative to fossil fuel.

"Using biomass to fuel an ethanol plant can reduce ethanol costs," Reardon said. "It also hedges against volatility in the natural gas market and also doubles the renewable energy ratio of the ethanol product."

Robert C. Brown | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.iastate.edu

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Linear potentiometer LRW2/3 - Maximum precision with many measuring points
17.05.2017 | WayCon Positionsmesstechnik GmbH

nachricht First flat lens for immersion microscope provides alternative to centuries-old technique
17.05.2017 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>