Ablative pyrolysis of biomass

  • George V.C. Peacocke

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The primary objectives of this work were to design, construct, test and operate a novel ablative pyrolysis reactor and product recovery system. Other key objectives included the development of an ablative pyrolysis reactor design methodology, mathematical modelling of the ablation process and measurement of empirical ablation rate data at 500°C. The constructed reactor utilised a rotating blade approach to achieve particle ablation in a 258mm internal diameter reactor. By fulfilling the key requirements of high relative motion and high contact pressure, pine wood particles of maximum size 6.35 mm were successfully ablated.Sixteen experiments were carried out: five initial commissioning experiments were used to test the rotating blade concept and to solve char separation problems. Mass balances were obtained for the other eleven experiments with good closures. Based on ablatively pyrolysed dry wood, a maximum organic liquid yield of 65.9 wt% was achieved with corresponding yields of 12.4 wt% char, 11.5 wt% water and 9.2 wt% non-condensable gas. Reactor throughputs of 2 kg/h dry ablated wood were achieved at 600°C. The theoretical ablative pyrolysis reactor design methodology was simplified and improved based upon empirical data derived from wood rod ablation experiments. Yields of chemicals were qualitatively similar to those of other fast pyrolysis processes.The product recovery system, comprising hot char removal, liquids collection in two ice-cooled condensers followed by gas filtration and drying, gave good mass balance closures. The most significant problem was char separation and removal from the reactor. This was solved by using a nitrogen blow line. In general, the reactor and product collection systems performed well.Future development of the reactor would involve modification of the reactor feed tube to allow the reactor residence time to be reduced and testing of the rotating blade approach with different blade angles, configurations and numbers of blades.
Date of Award1994
Original languageEnglish


  • Ablative pyrolysis of biomass
  • biomass
  • reactor design
  • modelling
  • liquids
  • ablative pyrolysis

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