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A decentralized biomass torrefaction reactor concept. Part II: Mathematical model and scaling law

Kung, Kevin S., Ghoniem, Ahmed F.
Biomass and bioenergy 2019 v.125 pp. 204-211
biomass, heat transfer, mathematical models, prototypes, torrefaction
In Part I of the study, we proposed a simplified biomass torrefaction moving bed reactor design capable of decentralized, small-scale, and mobile deployment operated under an oxygen-lean condition. We built and validated a laboratory-scale test reactor. In the present study, we develop a mathematical description of the reactor and show that it produces reasonable fit to our experimental data. Contrary to many existing biomass gasifier studies, we demonstrate that at the small test-reactor scale, heat loss mechanism through the side wall is significant and cannot be ignored in the modeling. We further demonstrated that at the small test-reactor scale, the rapid axial thermal conduction plays a role in the heat transfer within the moving bed. Furthermore, by interrogating the scaling behaviors of the reactor, we show that as we scale up our current laboratory-scale reactor, at the same torrefaction severity, the mass yield of the torrefied biomass is predicted to increase by 10–20%, due to the decrease in relative heat losses at a larger scale. This study, therefore, seeks to understand and quantify some of the limitations of testing a scaled-down reactor prototype. The understanding gained in this study can both inform scaling laws for at-scale reactor designs, as well as point out areas of future work in order to develop a higher-fidelity description.