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Iowa State researchers developing clean, renewable energy for ethanol industry

ple sugars in corn kernels. The researchers' idea is to use heat and oxygen to gasify biomass and produce a medium Btu gas (called synthesis gas) that a new catalyst can convert directly into ethanol. They'll also generate the gas using air to make a low Btu gas (called producer gas) that can be used in gas-fired heating and drying equipment.

"We're not intending to replace grain ethanol production," Brown said. "We want to complement it."

The burner

Kong, who is leading development of the new burner, said the technology could replace natural gas in conventional ethanol production. That would provide ethanol plants with a clean and renewable source of steam and heat.

Synthesis and producer gases have been used in burners designed for natural gas and other fuels. But Kong said the biomass-based gases aren't the same kind of fuel.

Biomass, for example, contains fixed nitrogen from the air and from fertilizers used to produce the biomass. Gasifying biomass releases the fixed nitrogen as ammonia in the generated gases. Improperly burning gases containing ammonia could produce nitrogen oxide emissions. Such emissions aren't acceptable in most industrial facilities under EPA regulations because they can contribute to smog and acid rain.

Kong's goal is to develop a burner that will minimize the emission of such pollutants while maximizing combustion efficiency.

He'll start by studying a conventional gas burner now at the Iowa Energy Center's Biomass Energy Conversion Facility in Nevada. He'll use that baseline data to develop computer models of the burner's performance. He'll use those models to test new designs that optimize the combustion of producer gas from biomass. And then he'll build and test a new burner at the energy center's facility.

"We're not doing a laboratory study," Kong said. "We're doing a real-world study. This will be helpful in developing a new and clean way to use renewable

Contact: Song-Charng Kong
Iowa State University

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