We are living in the middle of one of the most exciting points in human history.
Not only is amazing computing technology available in the palm of our hand (devices thousands and thousands of times more powerful than the computers used to land men on the moon in the 1960s), and not only is there an amazing connective “web” that literally links all corners of the world together for free and effortless communication, but we are just now finally starting to solve our issues regarding fossil fuels and the impact that they have on our environment.
Ever since the early 1860s we’ve had a tremendous dependency upon petroleum products (specifically gasoline) to power all of our heavy equipment and our vehicles. And while many of those vehicles and pieces of equipment have become much more fuel efficient than they ever were in the past, we still release an unsustainable amount of chemicals and toxins into the environment. These chemicals and toxins are quite literally changing and transforming the face of our planet.
Diesel engines are considerably more efficient than traditional gasoline engines, but they bring a whole host of issues to the table as well. Thankfully though, these kinds of internal combustion engines can run off of an innovative “new” fuel source – biodiesel . Biodiesel lessens the impact on the environment while still allowing us to operate the same kinds of vehicles that we have almost since day one.
But biodiesel doesn’t just spring up out of the ground (though it is produced by plants that do). It needs to be created by biodiesel reactors, and they need to be finely tuned and perfectly engineered to produce mass quantities of this fuel source for it to become more widely used and completely commercially viable.
Here are just a few things you need to know about biodiesel reactors and whether or not they are truly an effective solution to help guide us through this rough and rocky point in time.
What are biodiesel reactors?
The first few batches of biodiesel fuel were created on a very small scale basis, but as more and more people began to recognize the advantages of producing biodiesel in larger quantities three unique “reactors” were created to streamline the process:
- Batch reactors
- Semi continuous flow reactors and
- Continuous flow reactors
Each of these different biodiesel reactors brought different advantages and disadvantages to the table, and all of these different types are still in use today.
Batch process reactors are the least efficient of the bunch, but are also the least expensive to produce and to operate on a regular basis. Incredibly flexible, batch reactors can be used in a variety of different ways to produce biodiesel fuel from a variety of different “feedstock”, but one has to anticipate that there will be lower production and a higher variation in the overall quality of the biodiesel produced.
Semi continuous flow reactors work on a similar engineering principle as the batch process biodiesel fuel reactors, but they begin the overall reactor process with a much smaller volume with more and more “raw materials” added throughout the reactor process once things get going. This slow drip of resources into the biodiesel reactor ensures higher quality, but it is also incredibly labor-intensive, much more expensive to run on a larger scale, and isn’t exactly as efficient as it probably could be (or should be).
Continuous biodiesel reactors, on the other hand, are some of the most popular options for those that are producing large quantities or are responsible for commercial production of biodiesel.
These systems are absolutely gigantic (not only because of the scale of fuel that they produce, but also because of the actual mechanism involved), but are capable of producing some of the most consistent and high quality biodiesel available on the planet today. Not only that, but it also speeds up the actual reaction process of biodiesel creation – which means that you’ll enjoy more biodiesel faster than you would with any other reactor setup.
The future of biodiesel reactors
As we touched on above, biodiesel reactors are becoming a critical component in the automotive industry today as more and more companies are trying to get away from costly and potentially dangerous fossil fuels.
Scientists, researchers, and engineers all over the world are working round-the-clock to create even more efficient biodiesel reactor technology, looking for a “pure” method that allows them to quickly transform vegetable oil, methanol, and other “raw materials” into usable biodiesel.
Some (like the researchers at the University of Connecticut) are beginning to experiment with adding a unique spin on the batch processing system, looking for ways to effortlessly separate the glycerin from the biodiesel that is produced – rather than having to refine it after the entire process as completed.
Innovations like this are only going to cut down the costs of biodiesel considerably, and once it becomes a more commercially viable option will start to see it become a widespread fuel source for sure.
Obviously, there are individuals all over the planet working on solving the environmental issues that we are facing as a global community, and biodiesel – and biodiesel reactors – will inevitably play a larger part than many anticipate. It’s nice to know that there are so many individuals (very bright individuals at that) looking for ways to transform renewable resources and crops that may have otherwise been wasted into usable fuel sources so that we no longer have to dip into our limited (and dwindling) fossil fuel supplies.
It’s impossible to know exactly what the future of biodiesel fuels and biodiesel reactors involves, but if the last 10 or 15 years of innovation are anything to base the future off of, the future is going to be very bright indeed. Hopefully it isn’t all that long until biodiesel is available at every fueling station across the world, and maybe it won’t be all that long after that before we are able to break our dependency on fossil fuel completely.