University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota: Department of Mechanical Engineering

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Biofuels for the Farm

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Biofuels for the Farm: New Technologies for the Production of Biofuels in Small Systems

Michael Tsapatsis1, Aditya Bhan1, Lanny D. Schmidt1, David Kittelson2, Edward E. Cussler1, Prodromos Daoutidis1
1 Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, University of Minnesota
2 Mechanical Engineering, University of Minnesota

     The research addresses bioenergy research needs for heat, electricity and liquid fuels by proposing a portfolio of integrated catalytic, reactor and power generation technologies that are scalable, continuous, and suitable for processing diverse sources of biomass. We envisage small-scale production systems that use catalytic technologies to overcome the recalcitrance of solid lignocellulosic biomass to produce either platform intermediates such as synthesis gas (H2-CO mixtures), methanol and bio-oils or for power generation depending on demand. These platform intermediates can subsequently be converted to dimethyl ether, a substitute for liquefied-petroleum-gas (LPG), or into high-energy density liquid fuels via direct and indirect catalytic routes as a means of energy storage, or alternatively, be used for heat and electricity generation. We will develop catalytic processes and reactor configurations for high single-pass conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to fuels, low-temperature separation technology suitable for processing thermally sensitive biomass-feedstock, and engine, process modeling, and energy integration approaches for small-scale systems. The research team brings together the necessary expertise in reaction engineering and short-contact time reactors, catalysis, molecular sieves and membrane technology for selective separations, engine technology and power generation, and process dynamics and optimization required for this program. The successful completion of the research proposed will have a transformative impact on the development of small-scale engine and reactor technology for biomass conversion and the integration of power and fuel platforms, as we propose, will lead to new technologies for harnessing diffuse or currently wasted biomass resources.

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