Arbor Biofuels Company puts it this way, "The ability of a resin to remove impurities works on the principle of ion exchange (or in laymen’s terms: atom replacement in a molecule). The reason this "exchange" benefits or purifies is because usually the atom(s) used to replace the unwanted atom(s) (or contamination) is Hydrogen or Hydroxide.
So you have water which is contaminated with some mineral and it's making the water taste funny; lets say Sodium. The Sodium then is replaced by Hydrogen - the Hydrogen will immediately bond with other molecules most likely producing water; and magically the Sodium is replaced with essentially more water...
A large surface area is imperative to this process because, in order for this to work effectively, the bead(s) has to "hold" millions of hydrogen atoms ready to be donated for the cause. Therefore, the total surface area of the bead has to be covered in "dangling" hydrogen’s (or that are loosely bonded - chemically).
Chemists figured out that the best way to increase the surface area of the bead were to make it "porous" so that each bead not only had the external spherical surface area; it now had an immense internal surface area of its thousands of micro-channels. These micro-channels were then also coated with the appropriate dangling atoms ready to purify even more water per bead.
In our case, the beads are typically coated with hydrogen from sulfuric acid. This is accomplished by taking specially formulated and manufactured plastic beads and soaking them in a bath of highly concentrated sulfuric acid. A portion of the sulfuric acid's molecule (sulfonic group) actually starts bonding to the exposed surface area of the bead. These bonded molecules provide the dangling Hydrogens (by the millions). After draining off the acid and drying the resin beads, the beads are now activated and you have a fully charged ion exchange resin.
Example Of Non-Porous Surface Area Dry Wash Resin (Amberlite BD 10 Dry)
That is until Macro-Channel (or Macroporous) resin was invented! These resin beads had larger pores; in fact, the pores are so large that now even large hydrocarbon chain molecules can penetrate to the beads inner surfaces thus making them ideal for not only water purification but oil purification (and in our case Biodiesel!).
Example Of Thermax Porous Surface Area Dry Wash Resin
Thermax can either be used until it's spent and discarded or regenerated by using a methanol wash.
Thermax vs. Other Dry Wash Resins
Top - Amberlite & Thermax, Bottom - Purolite
Most studies have shown that dry wash resins do an excellent job of dry washing Biodiesel. Thermax, Purolite and Amberlite are all based on a hydrogen form dry resin and built around the same chemical ion exchange resin protocol. In other words, because they are built similarly and function similarly, it comes down to individual biodiesel production preferences. In several ways Thermax T-45 BD Macro resin has exhibited preferential production properties: significantly less compaction issues and pressure build-ups in dry wash towers (Ion Exchange Columns) due to reduced bead swelling, significantly longer life expectancy due to its greater number of molecular cross-linking, a reduction in the formation of gelatinous fouling layer which can form on the top of resin beds and significantly impact resin bed performance. Read More About Why Thermax Is Better
How Do You Use Resin To Purify (Dry Wash) Biodiesel?
Biodiesel being dry washed with Thermax should have no more than 1200 PPM of soap in it.
Otherwise, the resulting Biodiesel can become too acidic.
If soap levels are higher than 1200 PPM, we recommend pre-treating the Biodiesel prior to running it through Thermax.
The fuel can be pre-treated one of several ways:
2- Utilize the 5% Water Pre-Wash Method. This method is the easiest of the three and is extremely effective in helping remove gross glycerin, excess methanol, soaps, catalyst and other impurities.
3- Utilize the GL 1 Day Process. This method is based on the simple chemistry principle that Biodiesel is immiscible with all these impurities and will fall out if the un-reacted methanol is removed. Graham's process removes the methanol and then allows the impurities to settle out naturally over 24 hours. At this point the clear, clean Biodiesel can be sent through the resin for complete purification. Although this method when done properly (removing methanol content to < 0.15% and allowed to settle extensively) can produce ASTM fuel – it has been shown to be problematic for many home brewers, particularly if using a Potassium catalyst.
How Much Biodiesel Can The Resin Purify?
Examples of Thermax Recommendations
How Fast Should I Flow The Biodiesel Through The Towers?
What Kind Of Pump Should I Use?
What Temperature Is Best To Run The Biodiesel Through The Thermax?
How Much Resin Should I Buy? (Example Sizing Requirements)
Again, every tower is different in it's construction so resin amounts used will vary depending on the particular dry wash tower being used, however, listed below are the amounts of resin shipped with our Dry Wash Towers
6" Tower - 16 lbs Resin - Treats up to 1,600 gallons
Do I Have To Remove The Un-reacted Methanol From The Biodiesel
1- Utilize the 5% Water Pre-Wash Method. This method is the easiest of the three and is extremely effective in helping remove gross glycerin, excess methanol, soaps, catalyst and other impurities.
2- Utilize the GL 1 Day Process. This method is based on the simple chemistry principle that Biodiesel is immiscible with all these impurities and will fall out if the un-reacted methanol is removed. Graham's process removes the methanol and then allows the impurities to settle out naturally over 24 hours. At this point the clear, clean Biodiesel can be sent through the resin for complete purification. Although this method when done properly (removing methanol content to < 0.15% and allowed to settle extensively) can produce ASTM fuel – it has been shown to be problematic for many home brewers, particularly if using a Potassium catalyst.
3- If methanol removal is not performed a Centrifuge or settling the crude Biodiesel for as long as practical prior to running it through the resin bed can be performed. The Thermax resin has an immense capacity for removing soap relative to its capacity for absorbing glycerin – centrifuges and long settling times will help remove as much glycerin as possible and ensure its most economical use.
How Do I Maintain The Resin? (Resin Clean-out)
This "flooding with methanol" technique allows the glycerin and entrapped soaps that have been absorbed by the resin bed to be flushed out by re-dissolving them into methanol and moving them away from the resin beads.
Initially when flushing the impurities out of the resin bed, the outlet methanol will be dark brown or at least very cloudy with these impurities until the column is totally flushed. Once the beads are totally flushed, the methanol will be clear. At that point stop the flushing and allow all the remaining methanol in the column to drain out. It may be best to let the unit drain overnight to ensure as much methanol as possible to be removed.
See How To Maintain Thermax Dry Wash Resin Below:
How Do I Remove The Excess Methanol?
1- Flush With Biodiesel
2- Remove Beads And Air Dry
3- Air Purge The Beads
Learn More About Regenerating With Methanol
What Do I Do With The Methanol Afterwards?
Because Thermax recommends specific size requirements for the towers that the T-45 BD Macro will be put into, we also sell a great ion exchange tower kit and two pre-built ion exchange towers. As different sized towers have different loading requirements, we're making our Thermax available in 20, 70, 100, and 120 lb increments.
Frequently Asked Questions on Thermax Answers to common questions about using Thermax
Product Information Sheet Detailed information from Thermax
MSDS for Thermax T-45 BD MP Material Data Safety Sheet for Thermax
Thermax Biodiesel Website Information direclty from the manufacturer
Macro vs. Gel Read why Thermax is better!
Click Here to learn to learn even more about Thermax in this discussion style forum post.
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