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From Vegetable Oil to Biodiesel with Syrris’ Globe Jacketed Reactor System

Published: Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Last Updated: Wednesday, July 17, 2013
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The innovative Globe jacketed reactor system from Syrris has enabled chemical engineering students at Worcester Polytechnic University, USA, to safely investigate the production of biodiesel.

Professor William Clark from the Chemical Engineering Department explained: “As part of their senior thesis, some of our undergraduate students suggested a ‘green’ experiment; converting vegetable oil into biodiesel. This base-catalyzed process uses methanol and potassium hydroxide, which is not that simple a reaction or particularly safe. To implement this process in an undergraduate teaching laboratory, we needed a computer-controlled mini pilot plant that could run the reaction safely at different temperatures; the Globe system was ideal.”

“Globe enables the biodiesel reaction to be performed under computer control, eliminating manual transfer of reagents and allowing the experiment to be carried out safely, which is paramount. Working with Syrris, we designed a small chemical factory; two Globe reactors and a Globe Reactor Master Module – enabling the integration of balances, pumps, temperature probes, stirrers, a temperature bath and a pH meter – controlled by Globe Reactor Master Software. The catalyst – potassium hydroxide in methanol – is generated at a controlled temperature in the first reactor, then pumped across to a second reactor containing heated vegetable oil to start the biodiesel process. The software is very easy to use and controls the entire process – a great advantage as we do not have to write additional programmes to control other integrated modules – as well as providing an audit trail. This set-up has proved very reliable, and the temperature control is phenomenal; we are really thrilled with the system.”

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