Nav: Home

Synthetic fuels research aims to reduce oil dependence

September 15, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Researchers at Purdue University have developed a facility aimed at learning precisely how coal and biomass are broken down in reactors called gasifiers as part of a project to strengthen the scientific foundations of the synthetic fuel economy.

"A major focus is to be able to produce a significant quantity of synthetic fuel for the U.S. air transportation system and to reduce our dependence on petroleum oil for transportation," said Jay Gore, the Reilly University Chair Professor of Combustion Engineering at Purdue.

The research is part of work to develop a system for generating large quantities of synthetic fuel from agricultural wastes, other biomass or coal that would be turned into a gas using steam and then converted into a liquid fuel.

Other aims are to learn how to generate less carbon dioxide than conventional synthetic-fuel processing methods while increasing the yield of liquid fuel by adding hydrogen into the coal-and-biomass-processing reactor, a technique pioneered by Rakesh Agrawal, Purdue's Winthrop E. Stone Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering.

Researchers are using the facility to learn how coal and biomass "gasify" when exposed to steam under high pressure in order to improve the efficiency of the gasification process.

"We want to show that our system is flexible for using coal and biomass," Gore said. "The aim is to create a sustainable synthetic fuel economy. What's daunting is the size of the problem - how much oil we need - how much energy we need."

Findings published last year showed carbon dioxide might be reduced by 40 percent using the technique. And new findings will be detailed in a research paper being presented during a January meeting of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in Orlando.

The research is based at the university's Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories.

Synthetic fuels currently are being blended with petroleum fuels for performance improvement in automobile and aircraft applications and also are used in equipment trials in commercial aircraft. However, new techniques are needed to reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of making the fuels.

"At the right price, synthetic fuels could replace fossil fuels in all conceivable applications," Gore said.

The 2-meter-tall stainless steel reactor is part of a system that borrows technology from aerospace applications, including a "spark igniter" used in space shuttle engines. Materials inside the spark igniter may briefly reach temperatures of up to 3,000 degrees Celsius, or more than 5,400 degrees Fahrenheit - hot enough to burn holes in steel.

The researchers also integrated an advanced optical diagnostics system: A laser is transmitted through a window in the stainless steel vessel, passing through the gases being processed inside. An optical sensor on the other side of the vessel decodes the light to determine the precise temperature and composition of the gases.

"It's a modular design, so the optical diagnostics part can be moved to various points to analyze how the gasification proceeds," said Robert Lucht, the Ralph and Bettye Bailey Professor of Combustion in Mechanical Engineering.

Doctoral students also designed a special feeder to transport the coal or biomass into the reactor vessel.

"One of the challenges is feeding this at high pressure - about 10 atmospheres," Gore said. "This sort of feeder could not be bought off the shelf, so it had to be specially designed."

Gore and Lucht are working with faculty from Purdue's schools of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Chemical Engineering and other Purdue faculty members, as well as mechanical engineering doctoral students Anup Sane, Indraneel Sircar, Rohan Gejji and Brent Rankin.

Students are working on doctoral theses on the system's mechanical design, the optical diagnostics and approaches for integrating aerospace-related technologies.
-end-
The work is funded by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

The project also involves Li Qiao, an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics.

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

Sources: Jay Gore, 765-494-1610, gore@purdue.edu
Robert Lucht, 765-494-5623, lucht@purdue.edu

Related websites:
Jay Gore: https://engineering.purdue.edu/ME/People/ptProfile?id=9892
Robert Lucht: https://engineering.purdue.edu/ME/People/ptProfile?id=28413

PHOTO CAPTION:

Purdue doctoral students, from left, Indraneel Sircar, Brent Rankin, Rohan Gejji and Anup Sane created this gasifier to learn precisely how coal and biomass break down in the reactors. The research, funded by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research, aims to strengthen the scientific foundations of the synthetic fuel economy. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

A publication-quality photo is available at http://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/2010/gore-fuels.jpg

Abstract on the research in this release is available at: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2010/100914GoreFuels.html

Purdue University

Related Biomass Articles:

Ecology insights improve plant biomass degradation by microorganisms
Microbes are widely used to break down plant biomass into sugars, which can be used as sustainable building blocks for novel biocompounds.
Termite gut holds a secret to breaking down plant biomass
In the Microbial Sciences Building at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the incredibly efficient eating habits of a fungus-cultivating termite are surprising even to those well acquainted with the insect's natural gift for turning wood to dust.
Scientists harness solar power to produce clean hydrogen from biomass
A team of scientists at the University of Cambridge has developed a way of using solar power to generate a fuel that is both sustainable and relatively cheap to produce.
How much biomass grows in the savannah?
The ability of the savannahs to store the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is ultimately determined by the amount of aboveground woody biomass.
Economics of forest biomass raise hurdles for rural development
The use of residual forest biomass for rural development faces significant economic hurdles that make it unlikely to be a source of jobs in the near future, according to an analysis by economists.
Biomass heating could get a 'green' boost with the help of fungi
In colder weather, people have long been warming up around campfires and woodstoves.
Unraveling the science behind biomass breakdown
Using the Titan supercomputer, an ORNL team created models of up to 330,000 atoms that led to the discovery of a THF-water cosolvent phase separation on the faces of crystalline cellulose fiber.
US holds potential to produce billion tons of biomass, support bioeconomy
The 2016 Billion-Ton Report, jointly released by the US Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, concludes that the United States has the potential to sustainably produce at least 1 billion dry tons of nonfood biomass resources annually by 2040.
Improving poor soil with burned up biomass
Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science in Japan have shown that torrefied biomass can improve the quality of poor soil found in arid regions.
Women cooking with biomass fuels more likely to have cataracts
Women in India who cook using fuels such as wood, crop residues and dried dung instead of cleaner fuels are more likely to have visually impairing nuclear cataracts, according to a new study by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Related Biomass Reading:

Biomass: Fueling Change (Energy Revolution)
by Niki Walker (Author)

Examines biomass, biogas, biofuels, and the drawbacks to using biomass as a source of energy. View Details


The Handbook of Biomass Combustion and Co-firing
by Sjaak van Loo (Editor), Jaap Koppejan (Editor)

This unique handbook presents both the theory and application of biomass combustion and co-firing, from basic principles to industrial combustion and environmental impact, in a clear and comprehensive manner. It offers a solid grounding on biomass combustion, and advice on improving combustion systems.

Written by leading international academics and industrial experts, and prepared under the auspices of the IEA Bioenergy Implementing Agreement, the handbook is an essential resource for anyone interested in biomass combustion and co-firing technologies varying from domestic... View Details


The Biomass Revolution (Volume 1)
by Nicholas Sansbury Smith (Author)

What would you do if you lived in a world where your every move was scrutinized by your own personal artificial intelligence--a world where everything is regulated, from power usage to relationships--a world where everything you thought you knew turned out to be a lie?  Welcome to Tisaia - The last hub of modern civilization in a world left scorched by the nuclear fires of the Biomass Wars. Surrounded by a fortress of steel walls and protected by a fierce and loyal Council of Royal Knights, Tisaia seems relatively safe to the average State worker and citizen. A plentiful supply of Biomass... View Details


The Homeowner's Guide to Renewable Energy: Achieving Energy Independence Through Solar, Wind, Biomass, and Hydropower
by Dan Chiras (Author)

Energy bills have skyrocketed in the United States, and traditional energy sources can be as damaging to the environment as they are to your pocketbook. The Homeowner's Guide to Renewable Energy will show you how to slash your home energy costs while dramatically reducing your carbon footprint.

Completely revised and updated, this new edition describes the most practical and affordable methods for making significant improvements in home energy efficiency and tapping into clean, affordable, renewable energy resources. If implemented, these measures will save the average... View Details


Renewable Energy Sources - Wave, Geothermal and Biomass Energy Edition : Environment Books for Kids | Children's Environment Books
by Baby Professor (Author)

Wave, geothermal and biomass energies are complex sources of renewable energy. They require sophisticated equipment to harvest the energy and generate electricity for homes and industries. In this book, we’re going to learn the basic definitions of these energy sources. We’re also going to study the science and technology that converts them into electricity. Go ahead and secure a copy today! View Details


Biomass Gasification, Pyrolysis and Torrefaction, Second Edition: Practical Design and Theory
by Prabir Basu (Author)

Biomass is the most widely used non-fossil fuel in the world. Biomass resources show a considerable potential in the long-term given the increasing proliferation of dedicated energy crops for biofuels. The second edition of Biomass Gasification and Pyrolysis is enhanced with new topics, such as torrefaction and cofiring, making it a versatile resource that not only explains the basic principles of energy conversion systems, but also provides valuable insight into the design of biomass conversion systems. This book will allow professionals, such as engineers, scientists, and... View Details


Biomass as a Sustainable Energy Source for the Future: Fundamentals of Conversion Processes
by Wiebren de Jong (Author), J. Ruud van Ommen (Author)

Focusing on the conversion of biomass into gas or liquid fuels the book covers physical pre-treatment technologies, thermal, chemical and biochemical conversion technologies
• Details the latest biomass characterization techniques
• Explains the biochemical and thermochemical conversion processes
• Discusses the development of integrated biorefineries, which are similar to petroleum refineries in concept, covering such topics as reactor configurations and downstream processing
• Describes how to mitigate the environmental risks when using biomass as fuelView Details


Biomass As a Nonfossil Fuel Source: Based on a Symposium Sponsored by the Division of Petroleum Chemistry at the Acs/Csj Chemical Congress (Acs Symposium Series)
by Donald L. (editor) Klass (Author)

View Details


Introduction to Chemicals from Biomass (Wiley Series in Renewable Resource)
by James H. Clark (Editor), Fabien Deswarte (Editor)

Introduction to Chemicals from Biomass, Second Edition presents an overview of the use of biorenewable resources in the 21st century for the manufacture of chemical products, materials and energy. The book demonstrates that biomass is essentially a rich mixture of chemicals and materials and, as such, has a tremendous potential as feedstock for making a wide range of chemicals and materials with applications in industries from pharmaceuticals to furniture.

Completely revised and updated to reflect recent developments, this new edition begins with an introduction to the... View Details


The Renewable Energy Home Handbook: Insulation & energy saving, Living off-grid, Bio-mass heating, Wind turbines, Solar electric PV generation, Solar water heating, Heat pumps, & more
by Lindsay Porter (Author)

The Renewable Energy Home Handbook is biased towards the practical, and covers the installation of all leading types of alternative domestic energy sources - from ground- and air-source heat pumps, PV solar electricity generation and solar water heating, to bio-mass domestic heating systems and wind turbines. Discussing the pros and cons of each technology, it also provides you with a clear overview of what's genuinely required and the benefits to be gained from each system.

The author, Lindsay Porter, is best known for his books on motor vehicle technology, making car... View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2017

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2017. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Simple Solutions
Sometimes, the best solutions to complex problems are simple. But simple doesn't always mean easy. This hour, TED speakers describe the innovation and hard work that goes into achieving simplicity. Guests include designer Mileha Soneji, chef Sam Kass, sleep researcher Wendy Troxel, public health advocate Myriam Sidibe, and engineer Amos Winter.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#448 Pavlov (Rebroadcast)
This week, we're learning about the life and work of a groundbreaking physiologist whose work on learning and instinct is familiar worldwide, and almost universally misunderstood. We'll spend the hour with Daniel Todes, Ph.D, Professor of History of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University, discussing his book "Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science."