January 29, 2014

Iowa State engineers upgrade pilot plant for better studies of advanced biofuels

Lysle Whitmer, giving a quick tour of the technical upgrades to an Iowa State University biofuels pilot plant, pointed to a long series of stainless steel pipes and cylinders. They’re called cyclones, condensers and precipitators, he said, and there’s an art to getting them to work together.

The machinery is all about quickly heating biomass (including corn stalks, switchgrass or wood chips) without oxygen to produce solid biochar and liquid bio-oil. The former can fertilize crops; the latter can power the economy.