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Here is a description of my biodiesel reactor.     

As a general overview, this is a vacuum type reactor. The prototype is a 30 liter size and I have completed a 90 liter size. I chose the vacuum approach because it has several significant advantages over other types of reactors.  I don't like the idea of pressurizing a plastic container which contains methoxide to force it into the reactor.  I can use vacuum to draw the methoxide into the reactor which has less potential for an accident. Similarly it can be used to draw the oil into the reactor.  Vacuum also allows rapid drying of the oil prior to the reaction which is essential, and saves much time, and also allows rapid drying of the fuel at the end which also saves days per batch in process time. Vacuum also lends itself to methanol recovery which I consider to be not optional from the perspective of sustainability and environmental responsibility.  I chose to use forced exhaust at the methoxide mixer, liquid trap and vacuum pump to increase safety in the use of the system. Safety is always the primary concern and then after that every effort is made to optimize the effectiveness of the system for obtaining a quality result. As much as possible I try to use parts that are commonly available and wherever possible work to reduce overall cost by careful selection of components so long as it doesn't compromise safety and quality.  The reactor is designed with long term reliability in mind.

90 litre reactor.

90 litre system in use at Everdale Farms

Latest update:  Dual zone thermometer added. November 10,2006

Home hardware had an indoor/outdoor thermometer for 10 bucks.  I grabbed one. It has a sensor on the end of a wire which is supposed to go out the window to tell you outside air temperature. It has a built in sensor as well for indoor temperature.  I modified it to have both sensors on the end of their own wire so I could monitor the temperature in the reaction vessel and the temperature at the vacuum port simultaneously. Here is a description of how I modified it  with pics so you can DIY.

Previous update: August 11, 2006

The Everdale reactors are running now. Time to get some more built for the cooperative.

Previous update: June 28, 2006

The process description for the single stage base catalyzed reaction on the vacuum reactor is here. The advanced process description which includes methanol recovery and glycerin separation is here. Igot a hydrometer and calibrated it myself at room temperature by adding water to pure methanol and made a graph of the results, and here it is for those of you doing methanol recovery.  My recovered methanol generally comes in at less than 10% water content so 1Kg of 3A seives per litre should do the trick for drying. Recycling is so much fun....

Graph of specific gravity for methanol-water.

Previous update:  June 15, 2006

The build manual for the 90 litre system is published under the creative commons license and includes the parts list previously uploaded so I have deleted the link to the parts list which I had previously.  Now you can get both the manual and BOM here.

Previous update:  June 02, 2006

I have uploaded the 90 liter reactor parts list.  It is also published under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.  No manual as yet but it is similar enough to the small one that anyone with half a brain and some very solid technical skills can take the ball and run with it.

Previous update:  May 24, 2006

I have added a safety interlock for the heater in the hot water tank.  This prevents the heater from being accidentally energized when there is no liquid in the reactor. Bill of materials is finalized now and the build manual is complete.  They may be downloaded here and are subject to the creative commons license. Share away. Spread the word. Peace, Love and all that.

Previous update: March 24, 2006.

I think the design is done now.  I don't see anything that needs improvement anymore, so I am focusing on the construction manual now and BOM.  Lots of stuff to do to get ready for teaching the course.  This is exciting!  BTW thanks to everyone who came out to the meeting March 14th.  24 people who want to do something good for the environment in the local area!  It knocked my socks off!

Previous update: March 07, 2006.

Work on the construction manual continues.  I am approaching it from the perspective of a course manual since I am going to be putting on weekend training courses where we will build a reactor as a group, or actually several small groups each taking a part of the reactor and then assembling the complete system at the end.  To this end I am putting together an excell spreadsheet with a parts list as a BOM (Bill of materials). I'm making good progress with this.  In other news the plumbing has been re-rationalized and as is usually the case I look at it now and wonder why I didn't do it that way from the start.  Actually I know why. I didn't know about how high to mount the pump and whether it would prime itself properly so the tubing gave me options there but now the pump is rigidly mounted on its inlet pipe.  I also added some mods to deal with the liquid trap in a more user friendly fashion. There will be a meeting in Waterloo north at Sobeys at the corner of Columbia and Fisher Hallman at 7:00 pm Tuesday March 14, 2006 to discuss the direction and goals as well as organizational ideas of the not for profit fuel cooperative.  This will be an opportunity for those of you who contacted me over the past year to meet and voice your opinions on where we should go with the cooperative.

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