Power to Predict: NREL model benefits biomass-to-fuel reactor design

August 15, 2021 |

In California, National Renewable Energy Laboratory researchers can accurately predict reaction rates and optimal conditions for making biofuels. Their secret? Complex math to sketch the intricate chemistry and physics that drive catalytic fast pyrolysis.

Small changes to the design of catalytic fast pyrolysis (CFP) reactors can lead to big fluctuations in the quality and quantity of the low-carbon biofuel they produce.

Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), with funding support from the U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office, are helping industry engineers unravel the factors behind such different results with a powerful computer model that predicts CFP reaction rates.

This math-intensive model proves proved highly accurate, predicting the results of the reaction such as how many energy-dense hydrocarbons were formed and how much coke built up on the sides of the catalyst.

This breakthrough could enable engineers to refine CFP technologies to harness the full potential of expensive catalysts, a steppingstone toward better, more affordable biofuels.


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Category: Research

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