Thrust I: High-Quality Synthesis Gas via Biomass Gasification

Gasification has been identified as an energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly and economically-feasible technology to partially oxidize biomass into a gaseous mixture of syngas consisting of H2, CO, CH4, and CO2.  High-quality syngas can be further used to catalytically synthesize liquid fuels and produce hydrogen.  Biomass gasification involves complicated reaction pathways, reactive gas-particle behavior, and comminution of solid biomass particles.

  • Thrust I is primarily focused on the NSF programs of Particulate and Multiphase Processes, and Fluid Dynamics under the Cluster of Transport and Thermal Fluids Phenomena.  It will use advanced experimental and mathematical modeling techniques to investigate the biomass gasification chemistry and the multiphase reactive gas-particle flow behavior in a biomass fluidized bed gasifier.

Advanced experimental techniques including thermogravimetry (TGA), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), mass spectrometry (MS) and infrared spectrometry (FTIR) will be used to uncover the reaction pathways, kinetics and heat of biomass gasification. 

Reactive molecular dynamics simulation will be conducted to understand the biomass gasification mechanism.  A structural kinetics model will be developed using the experimental data.  A computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model with a high order turbulence closure will be developed to analyze the behavior of multiple-phase, reactive gas-particle flow in a biomass fluidized bed gasifier.

Advanced computer visualization techniques will be used to observe the patterns of the gas-particle flow and comminution of solid biomass particles in the gasifier.

Precise, sustainable, economical

Through better understanding of the chemistry and process of biomass gasification, the carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen in biomass can be precisely converted into CO and H2 in the syngas in a sustainable and economic manner.  This understanding will allow the prediction and control of the quality of syngas produced from biomass gasification.

This research thrust will provide the information, knowledge and tools necessary to advance the technology of biomass gasification for the production of biomass-derived syngas with sufficient quality for the synthesis of liquid fuels and production of hydrogen.

This research will benefit undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdocs by giving them the opportunity to be involved in fundamental and applied research in the fields of bioenergy and computational engineering.  These research endeavors will produce an increasing number of well-educated and trained members of the workforce for the growing bioenergy industry.

Synergy with other thrust areas

The three research thrust areas of the proposed center are linked synergistically to provide an integrated framework for investigations into more economically competitive thermochemical routes from different biomass materials to an array of transportation fuels.

  • Thrust I research leads the efforts to advance the technology of biomass gasification to precisely control the quality of syngas that is critical for the subsequent synthesis of liquid fuels through Thrust II and production of hydrogen through Thrust III.
  • The residual syngas from thrust areas II and III will be innovatively used as gasifying and fluidizing agents in thrust I.
  • The quality standards of syngas required for the efficient and economical synthesis of liquid fuels and production of hydrogen will be investigated in Thrust II and Thrust III, respectively.  Those quality standards will be used to guide the research efforts in Thrust I to advance the technology of biomass gasification for the production of biomass-derived syngas of sufficient quality.
  • Synergetic research conducted in thrust areas I, II and III will generate the required information for evaluating the economics of the two-step chemical process (biomass gasification and F-T synthesis) to convert biomass into liquid fuels, and the two-step chemical process (biomass gasification, and reforming and separation) to convert biomass into pure hydrogen.