Enhanced Reactions for Large-Scale Biofuel Production
Hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) transforms organic wastes into renewable liquid biofuels. Unlike other methods of biomass conversion, HTL occurs in water, making it ideal for processing wet organic waste without the need for energy-intensive pre-drying. Currently, however, large-scale adoption of HTL is not economically feasible because the chemical composition of the products it generates cannot be precisely controlled. As a result, HTL yields a biocrude that must be refined and upgraded prior to use, as well as a liquid waste byproduct that requires significant treatment.
With this CAREER award, Jillian L. Goldfarb, Biological and Environmental Engineering, is developing techniques for exerting greater control over HTL reactions. This project seeks to establish statistically significant relationships between, on the one hand, solubility parameters and the dielectric constant of reaction media, and on the other hand, the selectivity and yields of HTL reactions—with the ultimate goal of controlling products of the reaction. Researchers will also investigate methods to recover organic compounds that would otherwise end up in HTL’s liquid waste byproduct by manipulating fundamental thermodynamic properties of the wastewater.
Cost-effective waste-to-energy technologies are critical components of a future green economy. This research facilitates the design of more efficient and selective HTL processes that could enable widespread implementation of HTL for converting wet waste to biofuels. The production of such renewable biofuels could create green energy jobs and transform the United States into a green energy exporter.