Investigation into the relationship between the gravity vector and the flow vector to improve performance in two-phase continuous flow biodiesel reactor

The following study analyzes the performance of a continuous flow biodiesel reactor/separator. The reactor achieves high conversion of vegetable oil triglycerides to biodiesel while simultaneously separating co-product glycerol. The influence of the flow direction, relative to the gravity vector, on the reactor performance was measured. Reactor performance was assessed by both the conversion of vegetable oil triglycerides to biodiesel and the separation efficiency of removing the co-product glycerol. At slightly elevated temperatures of 40-50 C, an overall feed of 1.2 L/min, a 6:1 M ratio of methanol to vegetable oil triglycerides, and a 1–1.3 wt.% potassium hydroxide catalyst loading, the reactor converted more than 96% of the pretreated waste vegetable oil to biodiesel. The reactor also separated 36–95% of the glycerol that was produced. Tilting the reactor away from the vertical direction produced a large increase in glycerol separation efficiency and only a small decrease in conversion. 2010

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