SBIR Phase I: Heterogeneous Catalysts for Biodiesel Production in Microreactors

Award Information
National Science Foundation
Award Year:
Phase I
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
NSF 09-541
Small Business Information
Umpqua Research Co.
PO Box 609, Myrtle Creek, OR, 97457
Hubzone Owned:
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator
 James Akse
 (541) 863-2653
Business Contact
 James Akse
Title: PhD
Phone: (541) 863-2653
Research Institution
This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project proposes to develop highly active heterogeneous catalyst coatings for microreactors to reduce biodiesel production and environmental costs. This effort will improve biodiesel's economic competitiveness and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Conventional biodiesel production utilizes homogeneous catalysts with high material, neutralization, and separation costs, and which favor using low free fatty acid (FFA) feedstock such as costly vegetable oils. Undesirable FFA reactions generate soaps and water, complicating product cleanup. Heterogeneous catalysts avoid these problems, but have seen limited usage due to low activity, poor stability, and inefficient reactor designs. The development of catalytic microreactors will avoid these problems through improved mass transfer and catalyst site utilization, the absence of waste, and the ability to perform both esterification and transesterification reactions. Catalytic microreactors will increase feedstock flexibility, lower operating and capital costs, reduce facility footprint, decrease environmental impact, and simplify scale-up. These attributes will enable the use of wider feedstock varieties in local markets, resulting in sustainable businesses. The Phase I effort will demonstrate the feasibility of highly efficient heterogeneous catalytic microreactors for biodiesel production. A prototype microreactor biodiesel production system will be developed during the Phase II program. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project will manifest itself in several areas including improved cost competitiveness for a green, renewable fuel, lower environmental impact to produce biodiesel, and the reduction of our dependence on foreign oil. Commercial acceptance is growing due to the high cost of petroleum-based fuels, improved quality and supply of biodiesel, compatibility of biodiesel with current engine technology, public sentiment to develop more sustainable carbon-neutral energy supplies, and concerns over global warming and carbon footprint. Governments have responded by passing legislation to reduce dependence on foreign petroleum, including tax incentives, subsidies for biodiesel production, mandates for petroleum replacement, and promotion of green fuels. Catalytic microreactor-based biodiesel production systems will provide distinctive competitive advantages over current commercial processes. These advantages include: (1) improved reactor efficiency; (2) lower operating and capital costs; (3) elimination of process steps; (4) reduction of separation and environmental clean-up requirements; (5) compatibility with lower cost animal fats and off-grade vegetable oils; (6) smaller facility footprint; (7) generation of less wastewater; (8) increased compatibility with production facilities closer to feedstocks and customers; and (9) greatly simplified scale-up to meet market demands.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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