Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New biofuels processing method for mobile facilities

08.07.2010
Chemical engineers at Purdue University have developed a new method to process agricultural waste and other biomass into biofuels, and they are proposing the creation of mobile processing plants that would rove the Midwest to produce the fuels.

"What's important is that you can process all kinds of available biomass -- wood chips, switch grass, corn stover, rice husks, wheat straw …," said Rakesh Agrawal, the Winthrop E. Stone Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering.

The approach sidesteps a fundamental economic hurdle in biofuels: Transporting biomass is expensive because of its bulk volume, whereas liquid fuel from biomass is far more economical to transport, he said.

"Material like corn stover and wood chips has low energy density," Agrawal said. "It makes more sense to process biomass into liquid fuel with a mobile platform and then take this fuel to a central refinery for further processing before using it in internal combustion engines."

The new method, called fast-hydropyrolysis-hydrodeoxygenation, works by adding hydrogen into the biomass-processing reactor. The hydrogen for the mobile plants would be derived from natural gas or the biomass itself. However, Agrawal envisions the future use of solar power to produce the hydrogen by splitting water, making the new technology entirely renewable.

The method, which has the shortened moniker of H2Bioil -- pronounced H Two Bio Oil -- has been studied extensively through modeling, and experiments are under way at Purdue to validate the concept.

Findings are detailed in a research paper appearing online in June in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The paper was written by former chemical engineering doctoral student Navneet R. Singh, Agrawal, chemical engineering professor Fabio H. Ribeiro and W. Nicholas Delgass, the Maxine Spencer Nichols Professor of Chemical Engineering.

The article can be accessed online at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es100316z

Agrawal, Ribeiro and Delgass are developing reactors and catalysts to experimentally demonstrate the concept. Another paper by Agrawal and Singh addressing various biofuels processes, including fast-hydropyrolysis-hydrodeoxygenation, also appeared in June in the Annual Review of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. This paper can be accessed online at http://arjournals.annualreviews.org/eprint/gmGjKYuY7iQexh8Dd7XT/full/10.1146/annurev-chembioeng-073009-100955

The Environmental Science & Technology paper outlines the process, showing how a portion of the biomass is used as a source of hydrogen to convert the remaining biomass to liquid fuel.

"Another major thrust of this research is to provide guidelines on the potential liquid-fuel yield from various self-contained processes and augmented processes, where part of the energy comes from non-biomass sources such as solar energy and fossil fuel such as natural gas," said Singh, who is now a researcher working at Bayer CropScience.

The new method would produce about twice as much biofuel as current technologies when hydrogen is derived from natural gas and 1.5 times the liquid fuel when hydrogen is derived from a portion of the biomass itself.

Biomass along with hydrogen will be fed into a high-pressure reactor and subjected to extremely fast heating, rising to as hot as 500 degrees Celsius, or more than 900 degrees Fahrenheit in less than a second. The hydrogen containing gas is to be produced by "reforming" natural gas, with the hot exhaust directly fed into the biomass reactor.

"The biomass will break down into smaller molecules in the presence of hot hydrogen and suitable catalysts," Agrawal said. "The reaction products will then be subsequently condensed into liquid oil for eventual use as fuel. The uncondensed light gases such as methane, carbon monoxide, hydrogen and carbon dioxide, are separated and recycled back to the biomass reactor and the reformer."

Purdue has filed a patent application on the method.

The general concept of combining biomass and carbon-free hydrogen to increase the liquid fuel yield has been pioneered at Purdue. The researchers previously invented an approach called a "hybrid hydrogen-carbon process," or H2CAR. A news release describing the process is at http://news.uns.purdue.edu/x/2007a/070314AgrawalBiomass.html

Both H2CAR and H2Bioil use additional hydrogen to boost the liquid-fuel yield. However, H2Bioil is more economical and mobile than H2CAR, Singh said.

"It requires less hydrogen, making it more economical," he said. "It is also less capital intensive than conventional processes and can be built on a smaller scale, which is one of the prerequisites for the conversion of the low-energy density biomass to liquid fuel. So H2Bioil offers a solution for the interim time period, when crude oil prices might be higher but natural gas and biomass to supply hydrogen to the H2Bioil process might be economically competitive."

The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and is affiliated with the Energy Center at Purdue's Discovery Park.

Writer: Emil Venere, (765) 494-4709, venere@purdue.edu

Sources: Rakesh Agrawal, (765) 494-2257, agrawalr@purdue.edu

Navneet R. Singh, nrsingh@gmail.com
Note to Journalists: An electronic copy of the research paper is available from Emil Venere, 765-494-4709, venere@purdue.edu

Emil Venere | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.purdue.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling
07.12.2016 | National Centre for Biological Sciences

nachricht Transforming plant cells from generalists to specialists
07.12.2016 | Duke University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

NTU scientists build new ultrasound device using 3-D printing technology

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling

07.12.2016 | Life Sciences

How to turn white fat brown

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>