PITA Fiscal Year 2015 Projects

Optimal Reactor Design for Continuous Biodiesel Production

Lead University: Lehigh University
PI: Dr. James T. Hsu, Department of Chemical Engineering
Co-PI(s): Dr. Lori Herz, Department of Chemical Engineering
PA Industry: Supercritical Solutions

The objective of this project is to develop a multiphase fixed bed reactor with the goal of achieving continuous biodiesel production. An important aspect of multiphase fixed-bed reactors is the hydrodynamics within the fixed bed, defined as the movement of the two phases through the packing which fills the reactor. The packing of a fixed bed is immobile. The packing can either be solid or porous particles. In the liquid-liquid transesterification reaction for biodiesel production, the packing will be inert, nonporous glass beads. the hydrodynamics of these systems are important as they greatly affect mass and heat transfer phenomena,the pressure drop through the reactor, solid wetting and phase hold-up. In this project, the tubular packed-bed flow reactor will be evaluated for the transesterification reaction yield. Also, the inhibition effect caused by the by-product glycerol on the transesterification reaction will be investigated. The optimal configuration of the continuous flow reactor, which will have the best reaction conversion yield, the most stable transient temperature and pressure range, and effective and efficient preheating process, will be determined in this project. Also, significant agitation is required to achieve the high conversion of transesterification reaction.