Worcester Polytechnic uses Syrris technology to teach biodiesel

By Ron Kotrba | July 16, 2013

Chemical engineering students at Worcester Polytechnic University in Massachusetts have been investigating biodiesel production using the Globe jacketed reactor system from Syrris. “As part of their senior thesis, some of our undergraduate students suggested a green experiment, converting vegetable oil into biodiesel,” said Prof. William Clark from the university’s chemical engineering department. “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.”

Clark said 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,” Clark said. “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, and 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 big advantage Clark said, as additional programs do not have to be written to control other integrated modules.

The software also provides an audit trail.

“This set-up has proved very reliable, and the temperature control is phenomenal,” Clark said. 


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