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The use of solid fuels in compact combustion power systems

A sample of Turbine Bio Fuel was provided by Robert Fulton of CCA, LLC.  The producer of this algae derived solid fuel intends to explore its use as a fuel in aircraft engines or aero-derivative gas turbine power systems.  As an expert in alternative fuel combustion power systems and the fuel feed systems required to support pressurized combustion of bulk solids fuels, I evaluated the powder for feasibility of use in ARL/Penn State’s powder fuel feed system.


The vast majority of compact combustion power systems developed for mobile systems rely on liquid and gaseous fuels as the source of chemical energy.  Under certain circumstances, however, solid fuels might offer particular advantages due to their unique thermodynamic properties or economic attributes.  In order to exploit these advantages, at least two obstacles must be overcome.  The first is to deliver the fuel in a steady manner to the combustor which is typically well above atmospheric pressure.  While delivering gases and liquids to a pressurized combustor with pumps and compressors is routine, doing the same with solids can require specialized equipment and carefully controlled fuel properties.  The second large challenge associated with the use of solid fuels in compact combustion power systems is the rapid ignition and complete combustion within the combustor.  Gases and liquid naturally disperse in air streams in ways that increase reaction rates so that reasonably small combustor sizes can be maintained.  Solids generally tend not to disperse particularly well and solid combustion can often involves relatively slow phase changes.

Solids materials can generally be delivered to pressurized compact combustors and dispersed for rapid, intense combustion if the solids can be fluidized homogeneously.  Homogeneous fluidization, in this context, indicates that the mass of solids in flight through the fuel pipeline has a density that is only slightly less (5-10%) than the powder density at rest and that the cloud of particles flowing through the pipeline and into the combustor is generally of uniform density.  Such fluidizable solids behave very much like liquid fuels and can be considered for use in systems designed for liquid fuels.

The characteristics of fluidizable powders have been studied for some time by a number of researchers.  The Hausner Ratio is a simple but revealing parameter that is indicative of homogenous fluidization behavior.  It is simply the ratio of the tapped or vibrated powder density to the poured density.  For the sample provided, I measured a value of 1.31 indicating a slight degree of cohesion which is generally considered beneficial for stabilizing expanded/aerated masses of powders.  Direct experience indicates that powders with Hausner Ratios of below 1.35 can exhibit homogeneous fluidization.  A Hausner Ratio of 1.25 is generally considered ideal for homogeneous fluidization.  In order to reduce powder cohesion and facilitate further handling experiments, the sample powder was mixed with a very fine, food-additive-grade silica powder.  This step will almost certainly not be necessary to produce homogeneous fluidization if a slight larger particle size distribution can be produced.  Scanning electron microspore images of the sample powder indicate a powder with a relatively high sphericity and a low incidence of irregular particles.  These observations also indicate a good probability that the powder will be able to be handled in the pressurized fuel feed system.

SOURCE: Dr.Tom Cawley
Title: RES ASSOC
Administrative Area: RESEARCH-DEFENSE REL
Department: APPLIED RESEARCH LAB
The Pennsylvania State University
Applied Research Laboratory
State College, PA 16801

http://www.arl.psu.edu/

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Robert Fulton, the 19th century engineer of steamboat fame, didn’t invent the technology. He just improved it to make steamboats faster and commercially viable. Some day soon, distant descendent Robert Fulton III of Cedar City, UT hopes to make the same claim for making alternative fuels more effective and profitable.

 

Powdered Algae Jet Fuel From CCA

Fulton works for Compact Contractors for America (CCA), a Southern Utah-based company that is developing dry process biofuels from algae, camelina seed, and other non-fossil fuel sources. Dry process biofuels are essentially powders that can be injected and combusted in jet turbines and other engines. April 29th, CCA will exhibit and demonstrate the fuel at the Milford Renewable Energy Fair hosted by the Southwest Utah Renewable Energy Center.

“Dry process fuels have been around for a long time, at least since the first pulverized coal power plants,” Fulton said. “Running engines on burnable powders as opposed to liquid fuel is nothing new. What we’re trying to do is to identify the most effective feedstocks, rendering and fuel-injection processes to make dry process biofuels scalable to commercial and military operations.”

Powdered Algae Jet Fuel Test Video CLICK HERE TO WATCH!

The advantage dry process biofuels may have over liquid biofuels is a more streamlined and potentially less expensive preparation process, Fulton said. Dewatering the feedstock takes less energy, and no catalytic “cracking” is needed to create a liquid fuel. According to Fulton, CCA is focused initially on the aviation market, and in particular on providing dry process fuels for unmanned military vehicles.

“The military is very open to finding new alternative sources of fuel that promote our country’s energy independence,” Fulton said. “We’re trying to capitalize on that interest.”

USTAR recently funded a $39,000 Technology Commercialization Grant at Southern Utah University (SUU) to assist CCA in testing different algae strains and camelina feedstock. Initial tests have been promising, according the SUU chemistry professor Renwu Zhang. In general, the processed strains provided ample combustion heat with only minor residue.

Out-of-state experts have also tested CCA’s processed strains. Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Lab faculty member Thomas Cawley recently tested samples for injection system delivery. The CCA material showed promise for high-pressure combustion use and appeared to have little moisture sensitivity, meaning the end product is less likely to clump or jam in commercial use.

In a related effort, Montana State University has provided camelina meal samples to Southern Utah University for testing on CCA’s behalf. Combustion testing results yielded great potential for a camelina-based dry fuel.

The most recent milestone CCA has achieved is the signing April 24th of a research agreement with SOLIX Biofuels, Inc. of Colorado. SOLIX will provide algae samples for larger-scale, production tests. “SOLIX is well known nationally,” Fulton said. “Working with such an established commercial player is pretty exciting for us.”

From connections to university experts to market assessment and branding, Fulton speaks well of his interaction with USTAR. “The grant funding has been critical in allowing us to move forward, and having state support for SUU’s testing project has positioned us well with outside companies such as SOLIX.”

“USTAR has also provided some invaluable feedback on our business plan, and has helped us target the military aviation market. That advice alone has helped focus our efforts more effectively,” he said.

CCA’s exhibit at the Milford Renewable Energy Fair will be at Milford High School from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, Thursday, April 29th. For more information on the fair, visit www.swatc.edu/renewableenergyfair.shtml. For more information on CCA, contact robertfulton@bresnan.net or visit his site at http://algaeaviationfuel.com/. Originally Published by USTAR 4/29/2010 http://newmedia.innovationutah.com/2010/04/29/powdered-algae-biofuel-on-display-at-milford-renewable-energy-fair/

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