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A Game Changer in the Energy Arena

  • Jun 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 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

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

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.

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March 20, 2011
Thank you Adrianna. I'm hoping that more people will read these reviews. Recently, I created a new community called Supercontents for reviews that are highly technical and have a research component. I'm hoping that this Supercontents evolves into an investigative journalism site where people can get high quality information on very critical topics like the "Artificial Sun" . This could be a replacement for fission nuclear power which is much harder to control and clean up. The de-commissioning of the 450 or so nuclear power plants and replacement with the artificial sun is the work of the 21st century.
March 20, 2011
Very informative!
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Biofuels Engineering- How Does It Work ?
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   …
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Dr. Joseph S. Maresca CPA, CISA      25 Amazon / KDP Books including:      http://www.amazon.com/Dr.Joseph-S.-Maresca/e...11866699&sr=1-2-ent      … more
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About this book


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, Biomass Energy, Chemical Engineering, Biofuels


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