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Ultrasonic Transesterification of Oil to Biodiesel
Ultrasonics is a very desirable tool for producing biodiesel from vegetable oil and animal fats, because it lowers the cost of processing, speeds up transesterification, does not require elevated temperatures, and produces a higher grade of biodiesel.
The longitudinal vibrations of the ultrasonic probe are transmitted into the liquid as ultrasonic waves consisting of alternate expansions and compressions. The pressure fluctuations give birth to microscopic bubbles (cavities) which expand during the negative pressure excursions, and implode violently during the positive excursions. As the bubbles collapse, millions of shock waves, eddies, and extremes in pressure and temperature are generated at the implosion sites. Although this phenomenon, known as cavitation, lasts but a few microseconds, and the amount of energy released by each bubble is minimal, the cumulative amount of energy generated is extremely high.
• With ultrasonics, the amount of catalyst required for the transesterification of oil to biodiesel is substantially reduced.
• Ultrasonic processing is fast, usually minutes, compared to one hour or more using conventional batch reactor systems.
• Time required for glycerin phase separation is greatly reduced - typically 1 to 2 hours.
• Biodiesel yield is typically around 95%.
• Ultrasonic processors generate non-inertial cavitation and have only one moving part.
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