Microexplosions in the Upgrading of Biomass-Derived Pyrolysis Oils and the Effects of Simple Fuel Processing

The development of biofuels produced from biomass-derived pyrolysis oils (bio-oil) requires a deeper understanding of the bio-oil vaporization required for catalytic hydrodeoxygenation, reforming and combustion processes. Through the use of high-speed photography, bio-oil droplets on a 500 °C alumina disk in nitrogen gas were observed to undergo violent microexplosions capable of rapidly dispersing the fuel. High speed photography of the entire droplet lifetime was used to determine explosion times, frequency and evaporation rates of the bio-oil samples that have been preprocessed by filtering or addition of methanol. Filtration of the oil prior to evaporation significantly reduced the fraction of droplets that explode from 50% to below 5%. Addition of methanol to bio-oil led to uniform vaporization while also increasing the fraction of droplets that exploded. Experiments support the necessity of dissolvable solids for the formation of a volatile core and heavy shell which ruptures and rapidly expands to produce a violent bio-oil microexplosion.