Integration of Systems Engineering and Process Intensification in the Design of Processes for Utilizing Biobased Glycerol

Grants and Contracts Details


The principle objective of this student design project is to design a process to generate value added specialty chemical products from the waste crude glycerol generated for the production of biodiesel. The student group will apply the principles of process intensification with the tools of systems engineering and mechanical equipment design in achieving their project goal. Finally, the students will build a lab scale prototype of their process based on their designs. Design projects that are aligned with renewable motor fuels like biodiesel can provide benefits to people, prosperity and the planet since they are produced from sustainable feedstocks like vegetable oils or animal fats. Due to recent tax incentives, production of biodiesel in the United States and Europe has increased substantially. In fact, recently published estimates predict that the demand for biodiesel will grow from 6 to 9 million metric tons per year in the United States and from 5 to 14 million metric tons per year in the European Union in the next few years. However, for every 9 kg of biodiesel produced, 1 kg of crude glycerol is produced as a byproduct. Developing economically viable processes for using this crude glycerol can potentially improve not only the economic performance of biodiesel production operations, but also increase the overall carbon utilization of biodiesel production. Numerous chemical products currently produced from crude oil derived propylene can also be produced from bio]based glycerol. Products based on C3 chemistry such as acrylic acid, acrolein, 1,2]propanediol, 1,3]propanediol, propionaldehyde and hydroxyacetone can be manufactured from glycerol. However, for small scale producers, building processes to convert glycerol into more profitable chemicals is not practical. Therefore, the goal of this design project will be to apply the principles of process intensification to design a self contained unit with a design capacity appropriate for a small scale producer. This research will be multidisciplinary in nature, integrating process systems engineering with process intensification and mechanical equipment design and configuration. Laboratory experimentation will be combined with process synthesis, equipment design and environmental impact assessment to develop an optimized conceptual processes for a low]cost, small scale, self contained production unit to convert the waste crude glycerol from a biorefinery to economically viable specialty chemical products.
Effective start/end date8/15/108/14/11


  • Environmental Protection Agency: $10,000.00


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