Ultrasonic Reactors for Biodiesel Production

Ultrasonic reactors improve chemical reaction kinetics of the biodiesel conversion process. This leads to a faster transesterification, higher conversion yield, and it saves excess methanol and catalyst. Hielscher makes ultrasonic mixing reactors for the production of biodiesel at any scale. The ultrasonic reactors are compact, easy to install and very efficient.

Biodiesel Production Increased and Accelerated with Power Ultrasound

Biodiesel is a renewable and clean-burning fuel made from vegetable oils, animal fats, or waste cooking oil. It can be produced through a transesterification reaction, which involves the conversion of triglycerides into fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs) using an alcohol and a catalyst. One way to accelerate the transesterification reaction is to use ultrasonic waves, which can enhance the mixing and mass transfer of the reactants, as well as promote the breakage of the oil droplets and the dispersion of the catalyst.
A probe-type ultrasonicator, also known as a sonotrode, is a device that generates high-frequency sound waves (typically in the range of 20 kHz to 30 kHz) by vibrating a titanium rod. The ultrasonic waves propagate through the liquid and create high-pressure and low-pressure zones, causing cavitation bubbles to form and collapse rapidly. The collapse of the bubbles generates intense local heating and cooling, high shear forces, and shock waves, which can increase the reaction rate and efficiency of the transesterification process.

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Hielscher's Ultrasonic 32MMGY Biodiesel Reactor

The ultrasonicator UIP16000hdT is capable to process 32MMGY biodiesel.


In this video tutorial we introduce you into the science of how ultrasonic biodiesel reactors significantly improve biodiesel production. Hielscher ultrasonic biodiesel reactors are established as a powerful tool to enhance the biodiesel production process, and in this tutorial, we delve into the working principle behind it and show various ultrasonic setups for any production scale. Enhance your biodiesel production in efficiency and cost-effectiveness and produce higher yields of high-quality biodiesel within a rapid conversion. At the same time, ultrasonic biodiesel reactors allow for the use of poor oils such as waste vegetable oils or spent cooking fats and help to save methanol and catalyst, contributing to an environmental-friendly and sustainable biodiesel manufacturing.

Biodiesel Production Using Hielscher Sonoreactors for More Yield, Higher Quality & Capacity

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Advantages of Ultrasonic Biodiesel Production

The advantages of using a probe-type ultrasonicator for biodiesel synthesis include:

  1. Faster reaction rate: The ultrasonic waves can increase the mass transfer of the reactants and accelerate the transesterification reaction, reducing the reaction time and increasing the yield of biodiesel.
  2. Higher yield and purity: The ultrasonic biodiesel process improves the dispersion of the catalyst and the homogeneity of the reaction mixture, leading to a higher yield and purity of biodiesel. Using ultrasonics, you can use lowest feedstock quality such as waste cooking oils and turn it into high-quality biodiesel.
  3. Lower energy consumption: The use of ultrasonication reduces the energy required for mixing and heating the reaction mixture, as well as the amount of catalyst needed, resulting in a more sustainable and cost-effective process.
  4. Flexibility and scalability: Hielscher probe-type ultrasonicators and reactors can be used for both small-scale and large-scale production of biodiesel, and can be easily integrated into existing production processes.

In summary this means that the use of a Hielscher ultrasonicators and ultrasound reactors for biodiesel synthesis offer significant benefits in terms of reaction rate, yield, purity, energy consumption, and scalability, making it a profitable technology for the sustainable production of renewable fuels.

Ultrasonic Biodiesel Reactors Reduce Costs and Boost Biodiesel Yield

Ultrasonic emulsification uses intense cavitational shear of ultrasonic homogenizers in ultrasonic inline reactorsExcess methanol and catalyst are significant cost factors in biodiesel production. Hielscher ultrasonic reactors use intense cavitational shear for the mixing of methanol with your feedstock. This gives you much smaller methanol droplets resulting in improved methanol and catalyst utilization. Therefore, less excess methanol and less catalyst are required. In addition to that, the cavitation influences the reaction kinetics, leading to faster and more complete transesterification.

Process chart showing the biodiesel processing steps. Ultrasound can improve esterification and transesterification significantly.

Ultrasonic esterification is a pretreatment step, which reduced low-grade feedstock high in FFAs into esters. In the 2nd step of ultrasonic transesterification, the triglycerides are converted into biodiesel (FAME).

The use of ultrasonic reactors for biodiesel production is recommended for production capacities above 0.25 tons of biodiesel per hour. Hielscher offers ultrasonic reactors with up to 16 tons/hour capacity (5100 gallons/hour) per reactor. You can combine multiple reactors to match your process capacity. You can add additional reactors later when you expand your production capacity. We will be glad to recommend the most suitable biodiesel reactor setup for your plant setup and for your process capacity.

Small and Medium Scale Ultrasonic Biodiesel Reactors

Ultrasonic mixing reactors for the production of biodieselFor small and medium size biodiesel production systems of up to 9 tons/hour (2900 gallons/hour), Hielscher offers you the UIP500hdT (500 watts), UIP1000hdT (1000 watts), UIP1500hdT (1500 watts) or UIP2000hdT (2000 watts). These four ultrasonic inline reactors are very compact, easy to integrate or retro-fit. They are built for heavy-duty operation in harsh environments. Below you will find recommended reactor setups for a range of production rates.

1x UIP500hdT
0.25 to 0.5
80 to 160
1x UIP1000hdT
0.5 to 1.0
160 to 320
1x UIP1500hdT
0.75 to 1.5
240 to 480
1x UIP2000hdT
1.0 to 2.0
320 to 640
2x UIP1500hdT
1.5 to 3.0
480 to 960
2x UIP2000hdT
2.0 to 4.0
640 to 1280
4x UIP1500hdT
3.0 to 6.0
960 to 1920
4x UIP2000hdT
4 to 8
1280 to 2560

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Full Scale Industrial Ultrasonic Biodiesel Reactors

Production of Biodiesel in Ultrasonic Inline ReactorFor industrial biodiesel production plants Hielscher offers the UIP4000hdT (4000 watts), UIP6000hdT (6000 watts), UIP10000hdT (10000 watts) and UIP16000hdT (16000 watts). These ultrasonic homogenizers with inline reactors are designed for the continuous production of biodiesel at high flow rates. All four ultrasonic homogenizers are available in stainless steel cabinets. The vertical installation requires minimal floor space for installation or retrofitting. Below you find recommended setups for typical industrial processing rates.

3x UIP4000hdT
6.0 to 12.0
1920 to 3840
5x UIP4000hdT
10.0 to 20.0
3200 to 6400
3x UIP10000hdT
15.0 to 30.0
4800 to 9600
3x UIP16000hdT
24.0 to 48.0
7680 to 15360
5x UIP16000hdT
40.0 to 80.0
12800 to 25600

Inline Ultrasonic Mixing of Oil and Methanol

Ultrasonic mixing reactors replace tank agitators and other dynamic shear mixers. In general, the ultrasonic biodiesel reactors are installed to mix two feed streams: oil and methanol (with catalyst). For this, a crude pre-mix is pumped through the ultrasonic inline reactor, where the ultrasonic cavitation mixes and emulsifies both reagents within 2 to 10 seconds. This is an inline mixing process. When the mix exits the flow cell reactor, the glycerin will separate by gravity in less than 60 minutes. Alternatively, you can feed the sonicated mix into a centrifuge after a few minutes of reaction time. The inline mixing reduces the number and volume of tanks used compared to conventional batch processing. This improves capital utilization.

Process chart showing the biodiesel process in continuous flow mode. Ultrasound can improve esterification and transesterification significantly.

Ultrasonic esterification and transesterification can be run as batch or continuous inline process. The chart shows the ultrasonic inline process for biodiesel (FAME) transesterfication.

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High performance ultrasonics! Hielscher's product range covers the full spectrum from the compact lab ultrasonicator over bench-top units to full-industrial ultrasonic systems.

Hielscher Ultrasonics manufactures high-performance ultrasonic homogenizers from lab to industrial size.

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