Use of hydrodynamic cavitation as an alternative for biodiesel production

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Dos Santos S.L.
Ferreira M.S.
De Marin M.P.A.
Novazzi L.F.
ECOS 2009 - 22nd International Conference on Efficiency, Cost, Optimization, Simulation and Environmental Impact of Energy Systems
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© 2009 by ABCM.Biodiesel is known as an alternative to conventional petrodiesel because of its renewability and better combustion performance, in addition to reducing emissions, harmful to the environment. Biodiesel production consists on the transesterification of triglycerides with an alcohol and the reaction is affected by the alcohol type, temperature, molar ratio of alcohol to oil and catalyst type and amount. Since this reaction is a heterogeneous one, reagent mixing is also of crucial importance and traditionally the blending is carried out by using mechanical mixers. In this work a different approach is proposed, where the mixing is induced by hydrodynamic cavitation provoked by an orifice plate connected to the suction of a centrifugal pump. Biodiesel production was carried out at 45°C with a 1:8 molar ratio of soybean oil to ethanol. It was observed that the method assisted by hydrodynamic cavitation promotes the enhancement of biodiesel yield in comparison to the conventional method that uses mechanical stirring. In comparative tests carried out from 0 to 40 minutes, the hydrodynamic cavitation always showed conversion rates larger than the mechanical agitation. Although specific energy consumption in biodiesel production is slightly higher for hydrodynamic cavitation when compared to conventional mechanical mixing, it was observed that in the alternative approach the equipment employed is simple and has a low acquisition cost, showing that it has a great potential to be scaled up and used in industrial processes.