Microbubbles to make biofuel production more energy efficient

by Antonio Pasolini on January 21, 2010

Source: University of Sheffield

A team of scientists from the University of Sheffield in Yorkshire, UK, have won an award in recognition of their work on a device which can make the production of biofuel more energy efficient. The new technology is relevant because current biofuel manufacturing standards require vast amounts of energy and for that reason can become uneconomic.

The team have devised an air-lift loop bioreactor which creates microbubbles (miniature bubbles of less than 50 microns diameter in water) using 18% less energy consumption because they are able to transfer materials in a bioreactor much more rapidly than larger bubbles produced by conventional bubble generation techniques.

The award was given by the Institution of Chemical Engineers to the best paper published in the Institution’s journal during the year. The team also received the Best Poster Award at the 6th Annual bioProcessUK conference.

Suprafilt in Rochdale and Yorkshire Water are currently testing the approach. The latter are using the components of the microbubble bioreactor to give a better performance in the treatment of wastewater. They predict the process will see current electricity costs reduced by a third.

“Many of our processes use forced air in order to treat water and wastewater streams and, given the huge volumes, it is very costly in electricity and carbon terms. This technology offers the potential to produce a step-change in energy performance”, said Professor Martin Tillotson, from Yorkshire Water.

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