Hydrogen fuel cell technology is currently capable of providing adequate power for a wide range of stationary and mobile applications. Nonetheless, the sustainability of this technology rests upon the production of hydrogen from renewable resources. Among the techniques under current study, the chemical reforming of alcohols and other bio-hydrocarbon fuels, appears to offer great promise. In the so called autothermal reforming process, a suitable combination of total and partial oxidation supports hydrogen production from ethanol with no external addition of energy required. Furthermore, the autothermal reforming process conducted in a well insulated reactor, produces temperatures that promote additional hydrogen production through the endothermic steam reforming and the water-gas shift reactions, which may be catalyzed or uncatalyzed, with the added benefit of lowered carbon monoxide concentrations. In this study, an adiabatic ethanol reforming reactor was simulated assuming the reactants to be air (21% O2 and 79% N2) and ethanol (C2H5OH) and the products to be H2O, CO2, CO and H2, with all constituents taken to be in the gaseous state. The air was introduced uniformly through a ring around the side of the reactor and the gaseous ethanol was injected into the center of one end, with products withdrawn from the center of the opposite end, to create an axisymmetric flow field. The gas flows within the reactor were assumed to be turbulent, and the chemical kinetics of a simple four reaction system was assumed to be controlled by turbulent mixing processes. Air and fuel flow rates into the reactor were varied to obtain six different levels of oxidation (air-fuel ratios) while maintaining the same total gaseous mass flow out of the reactor. The numerical results for the reacting flow show that hydrogen production is maximized when the air-fuel ratio on a mass basis is held at approximately 2.8. These findings are in qualitative agreement with observations from previous experimental studies.

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