An autonomous biomass reactor to create carbon neutral transportation fuels and prevent forest fires
According to the USDA-DOE study ~1.3 billion dry tons/year of renewable biomass is available from US forests, farms, urban wood waste, etc. All the current processing methods (thermal, catalytic, and biological) require preprocessing (drying and grinding) to less than 2mm in size. However this widely distributed biomass cannot be economically transported, dried, and ground to < 2mm in size. Thus, we have to bring the bio-refinery to the biomass site. The only mechanism available to make this distributed biorefinery concept a reality is to develop an energy-efficient autonomous reactor that can process chipper-size particles (>10mm in size). This will also prevent devastating forest fires. We have made progress on the physical part of this problem. Our work shows that it is unnecessary to dry and grind the particles because the sample splits due to internal pressure generation – popcorn effect. However, we need to chemically stabilize the resulting bio-oil by deoxygenating it and would love to work with a chemical expert to make it happen. We have thought of making it a two-step process: (i) slow heating up to 300oC to elute H2O, CO2, acetic acid, formic acid & other carboxylic acids and then fast heating it up to 550oC to produce bio-oil. With enough de-oxygenation, bio-oil can be processed in conventional petroleum refineries to produce transportation fuels. Such a reactor is economically very attractive and provides well-paying jobs for two people (per reactor) while producing carbon neutral fuel. We will also love to combine with a business expert to make it a reality. Thank you for considering this research.
An Energy-Efficient Autonomous Reactor for Remote Locations to Create Carbon Neutral Transportation Fuel from Waste Biomass
$181,359 grant from the National Science Foundation