Monday, March 26, 2007

System Update

Sorry, it has been a while since my last post, so I will use this opportunity to get everyone up to speed on our current progress.

We found out that we did not win the MTVU grant, but we have found a few sources of funding at Vanderbilt, so we have actually started construction.

I ordered the components and the design and construction comittee met over the weekend to put a preliminary system together. I am happy to announce that we have a fully functional processor, although it has several improvements that need to be made. Here is a picture of the full system (it is currently located in my shed).

It is designed so it is compact and easy to move. The blue drum has a capacity of 55 gallons, so the system will initially be able to process 40 gallon batches. We are using this as a pilot so we can better understand the process and tweak the design for a larger processor in the future.

The black pump below the blue tank is a 1.5 HP pump that is used both for recirculation and powering the centrifuge. The white cylinder to the left of the pump is the final filter to ensure that no contamination will be in the final product.

In this picture you can the the pump (with the yellow wire coming out of it) and the white filter. There are a series of valves to allow us to use the pump to recirculate the oil, draw in oil from an outside source, and run the centrifuge. The valves also allow us to drain the glycerol after it settles.

The next picture is a picture of the top valves. The left side recirculates the oil (at about 15 GPM), and the right side sends the oil to the centrifuge. It also has a pressure gauge to help us monitor the system and centrifuge performance. Currently the centrifuge runs at about 85psi which is in it's optimal filtering band. It filters about 2GPM and spins at almost 9000RPM, although it actually doesn't make much noise surprisingly. The centrifuge is designed to be a replacement for a filter on large diesel engines, so it is quite rugged and well built.

Running the centrifuge also heats the oil about 20-30 degrees (F), and given that it is currently summer, we have decided to not worry about adding a heater to the system for now. We hope to run our first batch of biodiesel sometime this week.

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