Mechanical Engineering Department
The primary objectives of the Biofuels Lab are to:
- Assess and optimize the pathways of producing liquid, gaseous, and solid biofuels and value-added bioproducts via thermochemical conversion (pyrolysis, gasification and torrefaction).
- Assess biomass feedstocks of interest for creating bioproducts.
- Evaluate the created biofuels and bioproducts, with the overarching goal of developing technologies for advancing the bioeconomy.
Current and Past Projects of the Biofuels Laboratory
- Produce liquid bio-oils from renewable sources (switchgrass, lignin, prairie cordgrass, non-food oilseed meals, etc.) via fast pyrolysis.
- Produce solid, energy-dense, hydrophobic bio-char from corn stover via torrefaction.
- Enhance bio-oil quality in an effort to meet to meet JP-8 standards through the use of catalysts and hydrotreatment.
Impacts of Biofuels Laboratory Research
- Value added products derived from a variety of agricultural residues, energy crops, and emerging crops
- Production of biofuels in upper Midwest to promote job growth in rural communities
- Domestic energy resources
- Offset significant amounts of petroleum consumption
- Carbon-neutral fuels from renewable non-food sources
- Drop-in fuels that can be compatible with aviation use and existing transportation infrastructure
Fast Pyrolysis Auger Reactor
- Continuous reactor with 7 kg/hr capacity
- Handles coarsely ground feedstocks in lock hopper
- Five stage condenser train
Fast Pyrolysis Bubbling Fluidized Bed Reactor
- Continuous reactor with 1 kg/hr capacity
- Fluidization allows for easy temperature control
- Reactor data has been compared with computational simulations to optimize bed operation
Batch Reactor - Fluidized Sand Bath
- Small batch reactors determine product composition as function of time
- Allows kinetic measurements and establishes reaction mechanisms of pyrolysis
- Allows the use of solvents to improve oil quality
Thermogravimetric analysis (TGA-FTIR)
- Measures weight loss of pyrolyzed samples up to 200°C/min
- Allows calculation of overall kinetic parameters which are useful for reactor design
- FTIR spectra identify functional groups in the pyrolysis products
Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC)
- Measures heat of reaction for pyrolysis
- Identifies thermal events in lignin decomposition
Pyroprobe / GC-MS
- Pyrolyzes small samples at high heating rates (up to 20,000°C/min)
- Allows for comprehensive identification and quantification of pyrolysis products
Volumetric Karl Fischer and a potentiometric titrator
Heated and pressurized rheometer
Biofuels Laboratory Personnel
Stephen P. Gent, Ph.D., Gregory J. Michna, Ph.D., P.E., Michael Twedt, P.E. and Christina Gerometta