Multiphysics Numerical Modeling of the Continuous Flow Microwave-Assisted Transesterification Process

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Use of advanced microwave technology for biodiesel production from vegetable oil is a relatively new technology. Microwave dielectric heating increases the process efficiency and reduces reaction time. Microwave heating depends on various factors such as material properties (dielectric and thermo-physical), frequency of operation and system design. Although lab scale results are promising, it is important to study these parameters and optimize the process before scaling up. Numerical modeling approach can be applied for predicting heating and temperature profiles including at larger scale. The process can be studied for optimization without actually performing the experiments, reducing the amount of experimental work required. A basic numerical model of continuous electromagnetic heating of biodiesel precursors was developed. A finite element model was built using COMSOL Multiphysics 4.2 software by coupling the electromagnetic problem with the fluid flow and heat transfer problem. Chemical reaction was not taken into account. Material dielectric properties were obtained experimentally, while the thermal properties were obtained from the literature (all the properties were temperature dependent). The model was tested for the two different power levels 4000 W and 4700 W at a constant flow rate of 840ml/min. The electric field, electromagnetic power density flow and temperature profiles were studied. Resulting temperature profiles were validated by comparing to the temperatures obtained at specific locations from the experiment. The results obtained were in good agreement with the experimental data.

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The Journal of microwave power and electromagnetic energy : a publication of the International Microwave Power Institute

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