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Biofuels Engineering- How Does It Work ?

  • Mar 16, 2011
Biofuels Engineering Process Technology by Drapcho et al.
A McGraw Hill Publication 2008

Reviewed by: Dr. Joseph S. Maresca

The authors begin by explaining the justification for alternative energy.
The reasons set forth are:

o diminishing oil reserves and the increasing difficulty and cost of extraction
o global climate change considerations
o increasing fuel prices
o the need for energy independence

The largest oil reserves are in Saudi Arabia, Canada, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, UAE and Venezuela.
Geothermal and solar energy have less than 20% efficiency at the current technological
learning curve but zero emissions. Biofuels are substantially carbon neutral according to the authors.
There was a considerable presentation on fuels derived from fermentations;
such as, ethanol, hydrogen, microbial oils and methane.

The strategy for a bioreactor design is based upon the maximum rate of production formation,
biomass production or substrate utilization. Fuel treatments to reduce fire hazards can
contribute 54 MT ( million tons) of bio mass yearly. Muni solid waste has the potential
for biofuel production. Vegetable based fuels capture solar energy through plants and
photosynthetic pigments. These veggie based fuels sequester CO2 from the atmosphere
as a primary carbon source. The carbon is biologically converted to greater energy starches,
celluloses, proteins and oils as storage and structural compounds. Some algae can convert
CO2 to 60% - 70% of their dry weight in the form of storage oils.

Microalgae have very versatile growing conditions dating back to the earliest
eukaryotic organisms on the earth. Algae can inhabit many different environments
as long as water and micronutrients exist alongside. Algae have been shown to
accumulate a high level of lipids consisting of over 80% of their dry weight .

The microbial fuel cell or MFC is a specialized biological reactor where the electrons
processed during microbial metabolic activity are intercepted to provide useful electric
power. In an MFC, the oxidation of the electron donor compound is physically separated
from the terminal electron acceptor. The microbes are grown in the anode chamber where
the electron donor compound is oxidized, with the electrons transferred to the anode
instead of oxygen or an external electron acceptor. MFCs convert chemical to electrical energy.

Emissions from biodiesel in combustion engines are greatly reduced compared to the petroleum
diesel. Nonetheless, nitrogen oxide emissions constitute a drawback. Decreases in NO emissions
are possible with corrections in injection timing and combustion temperatures. These incremental
costs may add more steps to the process and (by implication) more costs.

The thermodynamic properties with respect to temperature of biodiesel fuels compared to diesel
are higher for biodiesel. Higher flash points result in a safer fuel for handling. Density and
viscosity of biodiesel is higher than for petroleum fuels and alcohols. Electricity from
gasification of biomass has a low production cost at 5 cents per KWH. Simultaneous
esterification of free fatty acids to alkyl esters will occur due to increased biodiesel
yields from lower quality feedstocks.

Esterification involves two reactants (alcohol+ acid) to form an ester product.
Esters are common in organic chemistry and may smell like fruit.
This characteristic leads to the application of esters in fragrances.
Ester bonds may be found in polymers. The yield of the product in esterification
may be improved by using Le Chatelier's principle.

Esterification is a reversible reaction as opposed to an irreversible one.
Hydrolysis or "water splitting" is the addition of water and a catalyst like NaOH
to an ester to arrive at the sodium salt of the carboxylic acid and alcohol.
As a result of this reversibility, many esterification reactions are equilibrium reactions. 
These reactions go to completion by Le Chatelier's principle.

An irreversible process is a process that cannot return both the system and the surroundings
to the original state(s) assuming a reversal of the original process .
Most processes, of course, are irreversible processes (or nonequilibrium processes).
Letting air from a balloon released into a room is an irreversible process.

Overall, these irreversible processes are a consequence of the second law of thermodynamics,
which is frequently defined in terms of the entropy or disorder of a system.

There are several ways to phrase the second law of thermodynamics. There is a
limit on how efficient any transfer of heat can be. According to the second law of thermodynamics,
some heat will be lost in the process. This loss explains why it is not possible to have a completely
reversible process in everyday life.

For example, a car engine doesn't give back the fuel it took to drive up a hill even if the
car coasts down a mile long hill thereafter.

The authors concentrate efforts substantially on biofuels. Ultimately, the "Artificial Sun"
may prove to be the game changer.  Shortly , a scientific team will begin attempts to ignite a
tiny manufactured star inside a lab and trigger a thermonuclear reaction.
Its goal is to generate temperatures of more than 100 million degrees Celsius and pressures billions
of times higher than those found anywhere on earth, from a tiny speck of fuel. 

The National Ignition Facility (NIF) in Livermore will utilize a laser that concentrates 1,000 times the electric generating power of the United States into a billionth of a second. The result should be an explosion in the reaction chamber which will produce 10 times the amount of energy used to create it.

Until now, such fusion has only been possible inside nuclear weapons and highly unstable plasmas created in incredibly strong magnetic fields. The work at Livermore could change the historical applications mix.            
Source: NIF, Livermore

Overall, the authors provide a very thorough rendition of biofuels engineering with excellent reference
materials at the end of each chapter. Readers who are conversant in organic chemistry, materials science structure of matter and thermodynamics will appreciate the superior technical presentation embodied in this text . There is an extensive scientific presentation of conversion factors and constants at the end of the book.
Biofuels Engineering- How Does It Work ?

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review by . June 17, 2010
Biofuels Engineering Process Technology by Drapcho et al.  A McGraw Hill Publication 2008    Reviewed by: Dr. Joseph S. Maresca    The authors begin by explaining the justification for   alternative energy.  The reasons set forth are:    o diminishing oil reserves and the increasing difficulty    and cost of extraction  o global climate change considerations  o increasing fuel …
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New Process Technology for Developing Low-Cost, Environmentally Safe Biofuels

Rising fuel prices have created a surge in the worldwide demand for biofuels made from plant and animal feedstocks. Filled with a wealth of illustrations, Biofuels Engineering Process Technology fully explains the concepts, systems, and technology now being used to produce biofuels on both an industrial and small scale.

Written by a team of leading biofuels experts, this lucid guide presents a complete introduction to biofuels and biorefining processes…state-of-the-art information on biofuels processed from fermentations of ethanol, hydrogen, microbial oils, and methane…new material on the production of biodiesel from plant and algal oils…and the use of microbial fuel cells to produce bioelectricity. Biofuels Engineering Process Technology takes readers step by step through:

  • The key concepts, systems, and technology of biofuels
  • A review of the basic concepts of fermentation pathways and kinetic modeling of bioreactors
  • Biofuels produced from fermentations of agricultural feedstocks and biomass-ethanol, hydrogen, microbial oils, and methane
  • Biodiesel fuels processed from the chemical conversion of microbial and plant oils
  • Bioelectricity produced from microbial fuel cells
  • The latest sustainable biorefinery concepts and methods

Inside This Cutting-Edge Biofuels Engineering Guide

• Introduction • Fuels from Fermentations: Ethanol • Hydrogen • Microbial...
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Books, Cafe Libri, Nonfiction, Alternative Energy, Production Engineering, Biofuels, Biomass Energy, Chemical Engineering


ISBN-10: 0071487492
ISBN-13: 978-0071487498
Author: Caye Drapcho
Genre: Nonfiction
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional
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