Biodiesel Production from Waste Vegetable Oil Through Transesterification

By Niki McIntosh
Senior Category (Grades 11-12)
Experiment | Chemistry, Energy and Natural Resources

Ever since the 1860s, our society has been highly dependable on fossil fuel, a nonrenewable resource. Though this has seemed like an efficient source of energy, it releases a variety of extremely dangerous pollutants. It is one of the primary contributors to global warming and acid rain. Recently, scientists have been looking into alternative sources of energy, such as biodiesel. Biodiesel is produced using a variety of oils such as corn oil, palm oil, and waste vegetable oil among others. Waste vegetable oil is a prime candidate for biodiesel production due to its abundance. Approximately 4.4 billion pounds of waste cooking oil is produced each year and only 50% of that is repurposed, the rest of it is wasted. Unlike fossil fuel, biodiesel is a renewable source of energy.

In this study, biodiesel was produced from waste vegetable oil using a process called transesterification. However it is also possible to convert the waste vegetable oils to biodiesel by using blending, pyrolists, and micro emulsions. The reaction was carried out by mixing the catalyst, potassium hydroxide, and with an alcohol, methanol. The reaction occurred at a temperature of 60 degrees celsius. Samples were taken at 3, 6, 9, 12, 24, and 48 hours throughout the transesterification process to establish the optimal time to allow the reaction to occur. The properties of the product of the transesterification were consistent with the properties of biodiesel. The best results were produced at 24 hours with 0.48g of potassium hydroxide, and 20mL of methanol per 100mL of waste vegetable oil (WVO).

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