Jessica Brown, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering at Iowa State University, won first place in the graduate research poster competition at the TCS 2020 conference held virtually in October 2020. Her winning poster was titled: “A novel semi-batch autoclave to overcome thermal dwell time in solvent liquefaction experiments”. A cash prize of $400 came with the award. An Iowa State student won first place in the poster competitions at the 2014, 2016, and 2018 TCS bi-annual conferences as well.Brown studies under Robert C. Brown (no relation), director of the Bioeconomy Institute (BEI), Anson Marston Distinguished Professor of Engineering and Gary and Donna Hoover Chair in Mechanical Engineering. Robert Brown was the founder of the TCS conference series, which aims to create a forum for students and early-career researchers to share their results and accomplishments in biomass thermochemical conversion for biofuels and bio-products. The 2020 conference was hosted virtually by Washington State University in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Jessica Brown, her poster details a new semi-batch autoclave reactor built at Iowa State that incorporates fast heat transfer for solvent liquefaction experiments. Fast heat transfer is important to include in bench-top experiments, as using slow heat transfer can alter the product distribution and yields. “This has serious process scaling consequences,” Brown said. “If one were to scale up using data from slow heat transfer experiments, the reactor would be undersized, and the designed biorefinery would need to operate lower than rated capacity with excessive capital costs for unused capacity in other unit operations. However, rapid heat transfer, which is demonstrated by our semi-batch autoclave, better approximates apparent reaction rates and product yields of continuous solvent liquefaction systems.” She and her colleagues have recently submitted the results of this research for publication.