Navigation Links
Brown University chemists simplify biodiesel conversion
Date:10/7/2010

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] As the United States seeks to lessen its reliance on foreign oil, biodiesel is expected to play a role. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a branch of the Department of Energy, biodiesel "represents a significant energy resource and could someday supply 3 percent to 5 percent of the distillate fuel market."

One major obstacle to achieving that goal is figuring how to efficiently convert the abundant stocks of waste vegetable oil (oil used after cooking French fries, for example) into biodiesel fuel. Current techniques take time, are costly and are inefficient. Worse, the conversion requires the toxic chemicals sulfuric acid and either potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide.

That's where Brown University chemist Jason Sello and postdoctoral researcher Aaron Socha come in. They write in the journal Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry that they were able to convert waste vegetable oil to biodiesel in a single reaction vessel using environmentally friendly catalysts. Their process is also six times faster than current methods for converting waste vegetable oil to biodiesel, so it consumes less energy.

"We wanted to develop an environmentally benign and technically simple way to convert waste vegetable oil into biodiesel," said Sello, assistant professor of chemistry. "The production of energy at the expense of the environment is untenable and should be avoided at all costs."

Waste vegetable oil is made up of triacylglycerols, free fatty acids, and water. The conventional way to convert waste vegetable oil into biodiesel requires two separate reactions. The first reaction turns the free fatty acids into biodiesel, but that conversion requires sulfuric acid. The second reaction converts the triacylglycerols into biodiesel, but that conversion requires sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide. Sodium hydroxide/potassium hydroxide and sulfuric acid are not compatible with each other, so the reactions must be carried out in separate vessels. That makes the process less efficient.

To find a better way, Sello and Socha went looking for catalysts that would be cheap, chemically stable and of limited toxicity. They settled on the metals bismuth triflate and scandium triflate, commonly used as catalysts in preparative organic chemistry. In addition, they performed the reactions using a microwave reactor instead of a conventional thermal heater. What they found was the new catalysts converted waste vegetable oil into biodiesel in about 20 minutes in the microwave reactor, whereas current reactions without catalysts using a conventional heater take two hours. While their microwave method needs a higher temperature to pull off the biodiesel conversion 150 degrees Celsius versus 60 degrees Celsius under current methods it uses less energy overall because the reaction time is much shorter.

The chemists also were able to perform the conversion in one reaction vessel, since the catalysts can promote both the reaction that converts free fatty acids into biodiesel and the reaction in which triacylgycerols are converted to biodiesel.

The team also reports that the catalysts in the free fatty acid conversion, which is the more challenging of the two reactions, could be recycled up to five times, while maintaining the capacity to promote a 97 percent reaction yield. The fact the catalysts can be recycled lowers their cost and environmental impact, the researchers said.

"While we have not yet proven the viability of our approach on an industrial scale," Sello said, "we have identified very promising catalysts and reaction conditions that could, in principle, be used for large-scale conversion of waste vegetable oil into biodiesel in an enviornmentally sensitive manner."

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation through a grant to Sello and an American Competitiveness in Chemistry award to Socha. Brown also supported the work through a R.B. Salomon award to Sello.

In a separate yet related paper, a team led by Brown chemistry professor Paul Williard has created a new technique to chart the progress of a reaction in which virgin oils are converted into biodiesel fuel.

The technique, called DOSY (for diffusion-ordered nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy), observes virgin oil molecules as they shrink in size and move faster in solution during the reaction. The reaction is complete when all of the molecules have been converted into smaller components known as fatty acid esters. These fatty acid esters are used as biodiesel fuel.


'/>"/>

Contact: Richard Lewis
Richard_Lewis@brown.edu
401-863-3766
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Brown Institute for Brain Science marks decade of research impact
2. Brown licenses potential muscular dystrophy treatment to Tivorsan Pharmaceuticals
3. Little brown balls tie malaria and algae to common ancestor: UBC research
4. Are invasives bad? Not always, say Brown researchers
5. Brown geologists show unprecedented warming in Lake Tanganyika
6. Brown scientists elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences
7. Brown biologist solves mystery of tropical grasses origin
8. Brown fat cells make spare tires shrink
9. Brown and beige dominate the plate: Daily dose of color needed to fill Americas phytonutrient gap
10. Northern brown bears discovered feeding on whitefish runs
11. New research to unravel how nutrients drive toxic brown tides on East Coast
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Brown University chemists simplify biodiesel conversion
(Date:3/30/2017)... , March 30, 2017  On April 6-7, ... Hack the Genome hackathon at Microsoft,s headquarters ... two-day competition will focus on developing health and wellness ... Hack the Genome is the first ... tremendous. The world,s largest companies in the genomics, tech ...
(Date:3/30/2017)... , March 30, 2017 Trends, opportunities ... (physiological and behavioral), by technology (fingerprint, AFIS, iris recognition, ... recognition, and others), by end use industry (government and ... immigration, financial and banking, and others), and by region ... , Asia Pacific , and ...
(Date:3/28/2017)... , March 28, 2017 The ... Hardware (Camera, Monitors, Servers, Storage Devices), Software (Video Analytics, ... Region - Global Forecast to 2022", published by MarketsandMarkets, ... 2016 and is projected to reach USD 75.64 Billion ... and 2022. The base year considered for the study ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:5/18/2017)... ... May 18, 2017 , ... Dr. Ralph ... at the Prince Of Wales Private Hospital. The procedure was performed on a ... patient failed conservative treatments prior to undergoing surgery. , The AxioMed viscoelastic disc ...
(Date:5/18/2017)... ... , ... NDA Partners Chairman Carl Peck, MD , announced today that ... President of Pharmaceutical Development Business Unit of Cardinal Health, has joined the firm as ... was former Chief Operating Officer at Anaborex, Senior VP and General Manager of the ...
(Date:5/18/2017)... ... May 17, 2017 , ... ... optimization firm for the life sciences and healthcare industries, is honored that ... for Medical Devices conference in Brussels, Belgium. , Crowley played a crucial role ...
(Date:5/18/2017)... ... May 17, 2017 , ... Many complicated neurological ... to develop Alzheimer’s disease, while men are at greater risk for Parkinson’s disease. ... bias is the aim of a research program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) ...
Breaking Biology Technology: