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TECHNICAL

INVESTIGATION OF A SOLAR BIOMASS BRIQUETTE DRIER

Juan Gibson1 and Daniel M. Madyira2
Mechanical Engineering Science Department, Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, University of Johannesburg
1 jagibson@vodamail.co.za, 2 dmadyira@uj.ac.za,
P.O. Box 524, Auckland Park 2006, Johannesburg
South Africa

ABSTRACT

Biomass is a source of renewable energy used today to generate environmentally friendly combustible fuel. Biomass briquettes are made by compacting raw waste biomass materials (e.g. leaves, grass, agricultural waste etc) into a disk, which after drying can be burned as an alternative energy source. Conventionally, these briquettes are dried by open sun drying, oven drying or a combination of the two. Open sun drying results in a lot of spoilage due to poor ventilation, damage of briquettes from handling, decomposition and interference by birds, insects and animals and a number of other factors. Oven drying, on the other hand, is energy intensive which increases the production costs of the briquettes.

Due to the problems related to these two drying techniques, an alternative method is required. This paper presents ongoing investigation into the use of solar drying as a possible alternative for drying the biomass briquettes. Solar energy is freely available which makes it an attractive energy resource. In addition, solar drying would improve the production of biomass briquettes by reducing the drying time and lowering the costs. The moisture content of the briquettes to be dried is determined as a first step in system specification. The solar drying system will then be developed. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) will be used to simulate the system. Once the system has been optimised, the results will be analysed and recommendations will be made.

KEY WORDS
Biomass Briquettes, Solar Drier, Solar Collector, Computational fluid dynamics, CFD

1. INTRODUCTION
Solar drying is now being considered as a possible alternative for drying the biomass briquettes. Solar energy is freely available which makes it an attractive energy source. If properly developed, solar drying can improve the production of biomass briquettes by reducing the drying time and lowering the costs. A project to investigate a solar biomass briquette dryer was initially proposed by Phumani Paper at the beginning of 2010 and has since been taken up by the author Juan Gibson at the University of Johannesburg. The project is expected to be completed by end of October.

Besides being applied to the drying of biomass briquettes, the technology being investigated can also be applied to sludge drying in the paper making process. This will also lead to cost reduction and improvement of the environmental friendliness of the overall paper making process. The technology also has potential to be used in preheating boiler and other process water.


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