254350 Catalyst Studies with Implications On the Design and Fabrication of Microreactors
In order to reduce typical industrial processing time and increase product purity in biodiesel production, microreactors have been designed, manufactured, and are currently being researched. Microreactors cut diffusion time from hours to seconds when compared to conventional reaction methods due to scale; the microfluidic channel size is 50 μm by 500 μm. Microchannels are currently coated with a metal base catalyst which can convert impure oil feedstocks (oil + free fatty acids) to fatty acid methyl esters (biodiesel). An experimental microreactor study is being conducted on how feedstock composition, residence time, and reactor temperature affect conversion to biodiesel.
To improve on the current microreactor design, catalyst studies with solid acid and base catalysts are being performed with the purpose of operating at lower temperatures and improving the ability to handle low grade feedstocks (high free fatty acid content). Extensive work was performed at room temperature and the methanol reflux point (65˚C) with both catalysts with low grade feedstock. From this study, a base catalyst was successfully tested with low grade feeds at temperatures as low as methanol’s reflux point. The acid catalyst was able to reach substantial conversions at temperatures as low as room temperature.