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Pyrolysis of Biomass to Bio-oil in the Classroom: The fabrication and optimization of a miniaturized Biomass Conversion Module

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Chemical Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1288.1 - 26.1288.13



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Paper Authors


Amber DeAnn Graviet Washington State University

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Amber Graviet is an undergraduate Chemical Engineering student at Washington State University with a minor in Mathematics and Chemistry. Over the past year she has been working with Jacqueline K. Burgher, Professor Bernard J. Van Wie, and Dr. Paul B. Golter to create a biomass conversion module for student learning.

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Jacqueline Gartner Ph.D. Washington State University

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Jacqueline Burgher is a graduate student at Washington State University in the Chemical Engineering Department. She received her bachelor's degree from Anderson University, worked in industry, received an M.B.A. from Anderson University, and is currently working with Prof. Bernard J. Van Wie on fabricating, optimizing, and implementing a miniaturized gasification system for use in the engineering classroom.

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Bernard J. Van Wie Washington State University

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Prof. Bernard J. Van Wie did his B.S., M.S., Ph.D., and postdoctoral work at the University of Oklahoma where he also taught as a visiting lecturer. He has been on the Washington State University faculty for 32 years and for the past 18 years has focused on innovative pedagogy research and technical research in biotechnology. His 2007-2008 Fulbright exchange to Nigeria set the stage for him to receive the Marian Smith Award given annually to the most innovative teacher at Washington State University.

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Paul B Golter Washington State University Orcid 16x16

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Paul B. Golter obtained an M.S. and Ph.D. from Washington State University and made the switch from Instructional Laboratory Supervisor to Post-Doctoral Research Associate on an engineering education project. His research area has been engineering education, specifically around the development and assessment of technologies to bring fluid mechanics and heat transfer laboratory experiences into the classroom.

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Pyrolysis of Biomass to Bio-oil in the Classroom: The fabrication and optimization of a miniaturizedBiomass Conversion ModuleThis work-in-progress paper focuses on the fabrication and optimization of a miniaturized fast pyrolysismodule for hands-on learning of biomass to biofuels conversion in the classroom. The module’s goalsare to help STEM students better understand thermochemical conversion principles and to explain andencourage students to learn the processes and constraints of systems designed for pyrolysis.The modular design focuses on three main aspects: the length of resistance wire used for the reactor,the type of resistance wire to use as a heating element, and the temperature of the reactor. To keep themodule simple and straightforward for use by students, the input biomass of computer paper wastreated with DI water and then dried for 24 hours to remove moisture. The biomass was then inputtedinto a 10 cm length reaction tube made of quartz and connected to a DC power supply. The length andtype of the wire had to be optimized to get the reactor up to pyrolysis temperatures. In this study wetested Kanthal and Tungsten wires and varying wire length to achieve the desired temperatures. Tooptimize the system, we tried several different combinations of these two variables, including varyingthe wire length from 10 – 45 cm with both types of wire. Since these variables change the amount ofcurrent delivered to the system the final temperatures were altered with each combination.Understanding of these effects is critical for achieving reactor pyrolysis temperatures.Temperature plots were analyzed to determine how changing wire type and wire length affect reactionrate and speed at which final temperatures are reached. Qualitative data were also collected todetermine how changing the reactor’s wire length and type affected the volume of bio oil produced.Based on the experimental design, we expect to find an optimal wire length and choose between thebetter wire type to achieve desired pyrolysis temperature and reaction time so that liquid yield isconsistent with the literature where 75% by weight is converted to pyrolysis liquid with only 12% byweight being water. This design process optimization is expected to lead to a modular system useful inthe classroom for communicating reactor design principles and teaching students about optimization ofa reactor system with respect to both temperatures it can achieve and yield of bio-oil.

Graviet, A. D., & Gartner, J., & Van Wie, B. J., & Golter, P. B. (2015, June), Pyrolysis of Biomass to Bio-oil in the Classroom: The fabrication and optimization of a miniaturized Biomass Conversion Module Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24625

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