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Production of energy dense synthetic chemicals from biomass upgrade

Description:

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Materials 

OBJECTIVE: To develop innovative materials and process for biomass upgrade prototype by foraging indigenous lignocellulosic biomass. 

DESCRIPTION: Range and endurance are major concerns on today’s robotic & autonomous systems (RAS) for both civilian and military applications. The mission duration of current RAS is limited by how much fuel or batteries they can carry. There is no built-in fuel generation in current design; consequently, the typical operation duration for a single mission is limited to about 20 to 30 minutes. As noted in the position paper from Maneuver Center of Excellence [1], the Army needs new technology to improve the sustainment of future combat vehicle. To address this challenge we need new compact energy harvesting fuel generators that generate high energy density fuel-like chemicals from indigenous biomass such as lignocellulosic biomass. The main technical challenges are that this new compact generator needs to be transportable and be able to convert various feedstock composition with different moisture content at a fast reaction rate. To address these challenges, Army seeks innovative approach to upgrade indigenous biomass to energy-dense chemical. Typical energy density of indigenous biomass is less than 20 MJ/kg, which is much less than that of military jet fuel (42 MJ/kg). There are several approaches that are previously investigated, including pyrolysis, deoxygenation, and hydrodecarboxylation [2]. These prior approaches were relevant for industrial scale. But the Army needs new materials and processes that would be relevant for RAS that do not create an additional logistics tail problem of high purity hydrogen and other consumables. The small business, in their proposal, will describe approaches of their own choosing to solve the problems. The project shall lead to a fabrication of a biomass upgrade prototype unit with less than volume of 30 L and dry weight of 30 kg. And the unit shall convert at least 1 kg biomass per hour to produce energy-dense chemical product with specific energy density between 30 and 40 MJ/kg. The energy efficiency of biomass upgrade shall be demonstrated to be between 15-20%. The energy efficiency of biomass upgrade is defined as (energy of chemical product) /(energy of biomass feed). The small business first shall conduct feasibility of their selected biomass upgrade approach in Phase I. Then the small business design, fabricate and verify biomass upgrade prototype unit in Phase II. Finally, the small business shall transition the biomass upgrade technology for commercialization to industry and possible Army applications in Phase III. Such technology shall be able both to generate energy-dense chemical product by doubling the energy density of the biomass raw materials (<20 MJ/kg) and to generate even electrical power. Civilian commercialization of the biomass upgrade technology could potentially impact recycling industry of yard waste, as well as outdoor tools and equipment industry through fuel oil generation from yard waste such as leaves and grass. 

PHASE I: Perform a feasibility study, explore biomass upgrade concept designs and perform a systematic study on materials and process toward greater knowledge in biomass upgrade technology to meet the requirement of point of need generation of energy-dense chemical (30-40kJ/g) with energy efficiency between 15-20%. Phase I final report shall provide a technology path that would enable Phase II design of a biomass upgrade prototype unit with volume of 30 L and dry weight of 30 kg. And the unit shall convert at least 1 kg biomass per hour. 

PHASE II: Design and fabricate a prototype biomass upgrade prototype unit based on the findings in Phase 1. Verification of design targets of improvement in energy density of indigenous biomass to energy-dense chemical. Such biomass upgrade prototype unit shall be less than volume of 30 L and dry weight of 30 kg. And the unit shall convert at least 1 kg biomass per hour to produce energy-dense chemical product with specific energy density between 30 and 40 kJ/g. The energy efficiency of biomass upgrade shall be demonstrated to be between 15-20%. At the end of Phase 2, the company shall deliver one prototype unit to Army Research Laboratory for evaluation. 

PHASE III: Demonstrate electrical power generation with biomass feedstock by integrating the biomass upgrade prototype unit from Phase II with a commercial power generation technology such as, but not limited to, a solid oxide fuel cell or a small engine. Deliver one integrated system to Army Research Laboratory for potential transition to other Army stakeholders for evaluation. Commercial fuel cell or small engine technologies, as a result of this particular SBIR project, could potentially inserted into defense systems. The small business shall also transition the technology to industry such as, but not limited to, waste recycling and outdoor tools for potential commercialization. 

REFERENCES: 

1: Position Paper: Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCoE) position on combat vehicle power and energy, Approved by MG Eric Wesley (19 January 2017)

2:  H. Ben, A.J. Ragauskas, Influence of Si/Al Ratio of ZSM-5 Zeolite on the Properties of Lignin Pyrolysis Products, ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, 1 (2013) 316-324.

KEYWORDS: Fuel, Lignocellulosic Biomass, Biomass Upgrade, Energy, Power 

CONTACT(S): 

Dr. Ivan Lee 

(301) 394-0292 

ivan.c.lee2.civ@mail.mil 

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