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Auburn University Mobile Gasifier Demonstration


Alternative energy research is inherently multidisciplinary covering topics from raw material production through transportation logistics to energy conversion and fuel production systems. Auburn University has an extensive record of outreach and extension throughout its 150-plus year existence as a land grant institution. To complement the laboratory and field research on biorefining, the Auburn University IGERT and our partner the Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts is collaborating with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System in several bioenergy and bioproducts extension/outreach programs. It is an integral component of our IGERT program for our faculty and trainees to help educate the scientific community as well as the general public about recent advances in alternative research. Many of the specific educational events have included the demonstration of thermochemical conversion of biomass to syngas and the subsequent production of electrical power using Auburn University’s mobile gasification laboratory. This mobile laboratory unit has traveled over 15,000 miles to demonstrate the use of biomass for electrical power generation. It is a completely self-contained system that stores and dries the biomass, gasifies the biomass to produce syngas, then cools and filters the syngas, and ultimately uses the syngas in a power generation unit to produce 25 kW of electrical power.

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o The mobile gasifier has been successfully operated with a wide range of biomass resources including, wood pellets, switchgrass pellets, chicken litter, and several others. It is a wonderful way to illustrate the potential for alternative energy generation to a broad audience and allows the AU-IGERT trainees from very different backgrounds (forestry, agriculture, sciences, and engineering) to explain how their contribution fits within the big picture. During this reporting period the unit has been utilized in more than 25 education and outreach activities across three states, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. For example, in February 2013, the mobile gasifier was on display as part of the Auburn University College of Engineering Open House (E-Day), where more than 3,000 high school students and teachers visited the Auburn campus to learn about engineering. AU-IGERT faculty, trainees and associates helped in explaining the technology to these aspiring engineers. Similarly, in April 2013, the unit was part of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Earth Day celebration as well as the Clean Coast Expo in Gulf Shores, AL. In total over the past 5 years, the unit has been seen by nearly 15,000 people at events ranging from Oklahoma City, OK to Washington, DC.