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Monitoring phase transition of aqueous biomass model substrates by high‐pressure and high‐temperature microfluidics

Ripken, Renée M., Schlautmann, Stefan, Sanders, Remco G.P., Gardeniers, Johannes G.E., Le Gac, Séverine
Electrophoresis 2019 v.40 no.4 pp. 563-570
biomass, boiling, boiling point, bubbles, electrophoresis, ethylene glycol, glycerol, heat, hydrogen production, mass transfer, microfluidic technology, models, monitoring, phase transition, temperature, xylitol, xylose
Aqueous‐Phase Reforming (APR) is a promising hydrogen production method, where biomass is catalytically reformed under high pressure and high temperature reaction conditions. To eventually study APR, in this paper, we report a high‐pressure and high‐temperature microfluidic platform that can withstand temperatures up to 200°C and pressures up to 30 bar. As a first step, we studied the phase transition of four typical APR biomass model solutions, consisting of 10 wt% of ethylene glycol, glycerol, xylose or xylitol in MilliQ water. After calibration of the set‐up using pure MilliQ water, a small increase in boiling point was observed for the ethylene glycol, xylitol and xylose solutions compared to pure water. Phase transition occurred through either explosive or nucleate boiling mechanisms, which was monitored in real‐time in our microfluidic device. In case of nucleate boiling, the nucleation site could be controlled by exploiting the pressure drop along the microfluidic channel. Depending on the void fraction, various multiphase flow patterns were observed simultaneously. Altogether, this study will not only help to distinguish between bubbles resulting from a phase transition and/or APR product formation, but is also important from a heat and mass transport perspective.