Process Intensification of Transesterification via Sonication: High Fidelity Simulation Assisted Reactor Design, Experimental Validation and Economic Study

  • Mohammed Hussain

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


It is an evident fact that all countries in the world need to focus more on sustainable development to overcome environmental issues. The UAE has taken a step ahead and decided to replace 7% of its energy share by renewable sources by 2020. In this quest for achieving sustainable development we look towards transforming the transport sector to reduce the pollution generation levels and make it even more environment friendly. While there are edible and nonedible feedstock, the best feedstock probably is Waste Cooking Oil (WCO) which is widely used since it provides substantial conversion at very cost. However, the restriction towards market viability of biodiesel are low production volumes and lack of strong solution for the byproduct. The current production reactor technology is extensively based on conventional batch reactors, which are huge and have high processing times. The best advancement in the production technology seems to be achieved through sonochemical reactors due to their ability to drastically processing times and size. In this work, designing of a novel, continuous flow, compact sonochemical reactor for biodiesel production from WCO was carried out and some novelties like pseudo flow cell section, static mixer section and bottom settling section have been added. The highly complicated phenomena of sonochemical conversion was modelled both physically and chemically based on multiphysics numerical models. The ultrasound acoustic pressure, rate constant of sonication and biodiesel conversion were used as a judging criteria for the considered reactor designs. Based on these simulations, an optimized, innovative and efficient design was achieved. Several reactor configurations are tested before reaching at an optimized reactor design. The optimized reactor design was prototyped and tested in the lab. Analytical tests of the product during experiments has been carried out with Thermoscientific GC/MS equipment. In addition to the simulation and experimental study, an economic study has also been carried out to investigate the feasibility of biodiesel in the UAE. The study is supported by statistical information of WCO obtained from a survey that targeted residential and restaurant sectors. Results from the simulation for the final reactor design showed the great advantage and positive effect of having the inclusions of pseudo flow cell section, static mixer section and bottom converging section. About 100% conversion was achieved in some parts of the reactor with the average conversion over the reactor being 84%. In the experimental study on the prototype, biodiesel conversion of 91% was achieved with a very low residence time of 1.2 minutes. The flow rate in this case was close to 12 l/hr. Based on these results it was inferred that the reactor design was very effective in utilizing the acoustic energy efficiently and producing biodiesel at a high flow rate. From the economic feasibility study, it was seen that among many scenarios considered the case for zero oil incentive, large scale sonication assisted production was capable of bringing down the biodiesel selling price (2.74 AED) to the level of petro-diesel in UAE.
Date of AwardMay 2017
Original languageAmerican English
SupervisorIsam Janajreh (Supervisor)


  • Reactor Design
  • Biodiesel
  • Waste Cooking Oil
  • Conventional Batch Reactors
  • Sonochemical Reactors.

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