After a couple months of brainstorming and testing with the equipment we have in our lab (syringe pump and a few microreactors of differing designs), we have settled on a design which we will implement next semester.
The overall setup will be thus:
For delivery, we will try to use an IV bag-and-infusion pump to store materials and deliver them to the microreactors. This setup will allow for a degree of autonomy not viable with a syringe pump due to the greater amount of reactants which can be stored in the IV pump upon loading. The infusion pump will also allow for the small rate of flow which we are finding necessary to cause a reaction in the microreactor.
Difficulties which presented themselves during testing included not actually generating biodiesel with the reactors. Since the batch tests indicate that the reaction can and should occur, we will experiment with altering the reactor design, temperature of reactants and reaction zone, and perhaps recycling the reactants back through the reactor.
- The current tests were run with a reactor path such that the reactants came together and travelled in a straight line thus: [_____________________]. What we will attempt is a microreactor with a serpentine path of repeating S-curves, allowing the reactants to remain in a high-temperature zone and in contact with the catalyst longer.
- For the temperature of the reactants, we will preheat the soy oil and the methanol before they are introduced in an effort to induce the reaction.
- Lastly, after the reactants pass through the microreactor, we will experiment with taking the output and either looping it back into the reactor to run through it again or running it through multiple reactors in series.
For the reaction zone, we will use, instead of heating tape, a heating lamp. This will, in addition to cutting back on power consumption, allow the reactants to be heated before they enter the reactor and during their path through it.
This is still a flexible design, but we elected this general setup for increased autonomy, more time for the reactants to form biodiesel, better power consumption, and more ways to heat and thus agitate the reactants.