A novel system optimizes bio-energy production and minimizes waste

A novel simulation produced by a collaboration between researchers in the Arab world, has the potential to optimize bio-energy production while minimizing waste.

In the last several decades there has been a dramatic increase in energy consumption worldwide, with an unfortunate result: a widespread air pollution due to toxic gases emission. These gases are mainly the result of the combustion of fossil fuels.

One of the most promising ways to counter this pollution is the use in renewable energy source: solar and wind energy, as well as biomass. Biomass in particular can be converted into many different forms of bio-energy materials, such as bio-diesel, bio-methanol and bio-ethanol. Of all of these energy sources, bio-methanol provides the most value as it is easily converted into carbon dioxide and water, while releasing lower carbon dioxide emissions when compared to bio-ethanol. It also has high energy density, and thus can be used in many industrial processes and in fuel cells. It’s no surprise, then, that more than 200,000 tons of bio-methanol are produced annually, and production is expected to reach one million tons in the next couple of years.

Bio-methanol is prepared using several different techniques, including gasification of woodchips, biomass char, and pyrolysis of wood. There are even some more novel techniques such as photo-eletrochemical and electrolysis. Of all the above, pyrolysis is considered one of the best techniques because of its large-scale productivity.

While pyrolysis can be highly efficient, its yield depends on different parameters like biomass particle size, nitrogen flow rate, and the process temperature. It is extremely difficult, time consuming and expansive to optimize these parameters for achieving optimal yield. As a result, many pyrolysis processes are not as efficient as they could’ve been – and thus do not produce as much bio-methanol as they theoretically could.

This is where a new and promising research team, led by Prof. Ahmed M. Nassef from the Faculty of Engineering at Tanta University in Egypt, came into the picture. The research was conducted mainly by Prof. Bashria A. A. Yousef from the Department of Sustainable and Renewable Energy Engineering at the University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.

The researchers made use of fuzzy modeling technique, together with Particle Swarm Optimization with which they modeled the complex pyrolysis process. They used these conjoined techniques to simulate the workings of a control system that enhanced and optimized bio-methanol production from sugar cane bagasse. The combination of these two techniques for enhancing the production of bio-methanol from biomass has never been applied before, and thus the proposed procedure is considered novel and groundbreaking.

The end result of these simulations should be the production of bio-methanol at high yields and a decreased volume of waste. As such, this research will be an important step in the arduous journey of mitigating climate change and slowing down global warming.

This breakthrough was first published in the International Journal of Energy Research, and can be read in this link.

Original content by Nawartna

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