Making Biofuel a Cost-Effective, Renewable Source of Energy

Peter Ciesielski, NREL, CO, USA

Pyrolysis is a pre-commercial thermochemical process that converts renewable, plant-based materials such as wood into liquid biofuels. To make pyrolysis a cost-effective method for biofuel conversion, researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are using multiphysics simulation to better understand and optimize the process. Thus far, they have used COMSOL Multiphysics® to develop a computational model of the heat and mass transfer processes associated with pyrolysis, featuring the most accurate representation of biomass particle geometry to date. Ongoing development of the process involves adding chemical reactions and phase change to create a complete model of pyrolysis that can be used to improve the performance of large-scale reactors – an essential step in making the mass production of biofuels more efficient.

COMSOL simulation showing temperature distribution from a transient simulation of conjugate heat transfer in a hardwood biomass particle.