A new computer model developed at the University of Illinois can simplify this transition, researchers say. The model can run millions of simulations, optimizing operations to bring down costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions or achieve other goals.
“Biomass from the field will not just show up magically at the biorefinery,” said agricultural and biological engineering professor and department head K.C. Ting, who developed the model with Energy Biosciences Institute research professor Yogendra Shastri and agricultural and biological engineering professors Alan Hansen and Luis Rodriguez. “You have to harvest, transport, store and deliver,” he said. The institute, funded by BP, supported the research. Ting, Hansen and Rodriguez are affiliates of the Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois.
Shastri, who built the model, said the goal was to “consider all these operations together and find out the best system, not just the best harvester or the best method of storage, but a system that works together to achieve a given goal.”
The model took into account regional attributes such as weather, crop yield, farm size and transport distances, Shastri said. The model can optimize more than 300,000 variables, he said, including harvest schedules, equipment selection, storage sizing, transport distances and the logistics of moving the biomass from place to place.
As a test, the researchers used the model to optimize biomass production for a 13-county region in southern Illinois. (BioFeed can be adapted to analyze any region of the world, the researchers said.)
A major challenge of the emerging biofuels industry is the need for a vast and steady stream of plant biomass, the researchers said.
“If the biorefinery capacity is 50 million gallons of biofuel per year, you need to deliver roughly 1,500 to 2,000 tons of biomass per day,” Ting said. “It’s not a trivial task.”
“Ideally, the biorefinery is expecting year-round delivery of biomass, and yet the harvesting season is a very short portion of the year and greatly dependent on weather,” Hansen said. A January or February harvest, which most agronomists recommend for Miscanthus in the Midwest, means farmers must bring in their crop in some of the worst weather of the year, he said. This can cause expensive delays. BioFeed found that a November harvest would significantly reduce weather-related costs, which must be weighed against the potentially higher fertilization needed the following spring.
The model also found that storing the harvested grasses in a barn or other protected site on the farm would – in most cases – reduce the overall cost of the system more than if it were stored uncovered on a farm or at a centralized facility.Each optimized solution will have its drawbacks, however, the researchers said.
“There are so many factors to consider, so many ways to operate, so many scenarios, so many potential policy changes,” Ting said. “That’s why the optimization tool itself is so important.”
“BioFeed is optimizing as if you have control of everything, as if you own everything,” Ting said. Individual stakeholders within the system – such as farmers or those building new bio-refineries – will want to maximize their own profits, however. This drives up the cost of the whole system, “but it also makes everybody more willing to participate,” he said.
To study this, the researchers are building another model that considers how farmers and other stakeholders are likely to behave given various economic and regulatory factors. This “agent-based” approach is described in a paper in BioEnergy Research.Editor’s notes: To reach Yogendra Shastri,
Diana Yates | University of Illinois
Barium ruthenate: A high-yield, easy-to-handle perovskite catalyst for the oxidation of sulfides
16.07.2018 | Tokyo Institute of Technology
The secret sulfate code that lets the bad Tau in
16.07.2018 | American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
16.07.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
16.07.2018 | Life Sciences
16.07.2018 | Earth Sciences