Team converts wet biological waste to diesel-compatible fuel

December 04, 2018

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- In a step toward producing renewable engine fuels that are compatible with existing diesel fuel infrastructure, researchers report they can convert wet biowaste, such as swine manure and food scraps, into a fuel that can be blended with diesel and that shares diesel's combustion efficiency and emissions profile.

The researchers report the findings in the journal Nature Sustainability.

"The demonstration that fuels produced from wet waste can be used in engines is a huge step forward for the development of sustainable liquid fuels," said Brajendra K. Sharma, a research scientist with the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois' Prairie Research Institute and a co-author of the study. U. of I. agricultural and biological engineering professor Yuanhui Zhang led the research. His former graduate student Wan-Ting (Grace) Chen is the first author of the paper and a professor at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Mechanical science and engineering professor Chia-Fon Lee and graduate student Timothy Lee led the engine tests.

"The United States annually produces 79 million dry tons of wet biowaste from food processing and animal production," with more expected as urbanization increases, the researchers wrote. One of the biggest hurdles to extracting energy from this waste is its water content. Drying it requires almost as much energy as can be extracted from it.

Hydrothermal liquification is a potential solution to this problem because it uses water as the reaction medium and converts even nonlipid (nonfatty) biowaste components into biocrude oil that can be further processed into engine fuels, the researchers report.

Previous studies have stumbled in trying to distill the biocrude generated through HTL into stable, usable fuels, however. For the new research, the team combined distillation with a process called esterification to convert the most promising fractions of distilled biocrude into a liquid fuel that can be blended with diesel. The fuel meets current standards and specifications for diesel fuel.

"Our group developed pilot-scale HTL reactors to produce the biocrude oil for upgrading," Chen said. "We also were able to separate the distillable fractions from the biocrude oil. Using 10-20 percent upgraded distillates blended with diesel, we saw a 96-100 percent power output and similar pollutant emissions to regular diesel."

Led by Zhang, the team is building a pilot-scale reactor that can be mounted on a mobile trailer and "has the capacity to process one ton of biowaste and produce 30 gallons of biocrude oil per day," Zhang said. "This capacity will allow the team to conduct further research and provide key parameters for commercial-scale application."
-end-
Editor's notes:

For more information about the study, contact corresponding author Yuanhui Zhang: call 217-333-2693; email yzhang1@illinois.edu.

The paper "Renewable diesel blendstocks produced by hydrothermal liquefaction of wet biowaste" is available online and from the U. of I. News Bureau

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Related Water Articles from Brightsurf:

Transport of water to mars' upper atmosphere dominates planet's water loss to space
Instead of its scarce atmospheric water being confined in Mars' lower atmosphere, a new study finds evidence that water on Mars is directly transported to the upper atmosphere, where it is converted to atomic hydrogen that escapes to space.

Water striders learn from experience how to jump up safely from water surface
Water striders jump upwards from the water surface without breaking it.

'Pregnancy test for water' delivers fast, easy results on water quality
A new platform technology can assess water safety and quality with just a single drop and a few minutes.

Something in the water
Between 2015 and 2016, Brazil suffered from an epidemic outbreak of the Zika virus, whose infections occurred throughout the country states.

Researchers create new tools to monitor water quality, measure water insecurity
A wife-husband team will present both high-tech and low-tech solutions for improving water security at this year's American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Seattle on Sunday, Feb.

The shape of water: What water molecules look like on the surface of materials
Water is a familiar substance that is present virtually everywhere.

Water, water everywhere -- and it's weirder than you think
Researchers at The University of Tokyo show that liquid water has 2 distinct molecular arrangements: tetrahedral and non-tetrahedral.

What's in your water?
Mixing drinking water with chlorine, the United States' most common method of disinfecting drinking water, creates previously unidentified toxic byproducts, says Carsten Prasse from Johns Hopkins University and his collaborators from the University of California, Berkeley and Switzerland.

How we transport water in our bodies inspires new water filtration method
A multidisciplinary group of engineers and scientists has discovered a new method for water filtration that could have implications for a variety of technologies, such as desalination plants, breathable and protective fabrics, and carbon capture in gas separations.

Source water key to bacterial water safety in remote Northern Australia
In the wet-dry topics of Australia, drinking water in remote communities is often sourced from groundwater bores.

Read More: Water News and Water Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.