Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Biodiesel From (Virgin) Vegetable Oil

Editor's Note: Britt, our IEPA intern, is spending the summer examining both Biodiesel and Composting Issues at UIC. He will be reporting his progress on our blog.


Control Biodiesel Processing-
This will help with the WVO (Waste Vegetable Oil) biodiesel later in terms of comparing the final products.

Day 1- So the last two days I have been in the process of making our first control batch of virgin veggie biodiesel. It was surprisingly fun and easy. These are the ingredients I used.


1. Distilled water
2. Lye (NaOH)
3. HEET (methanol)
4. Pure Vegetable oil

I have about 3 hours into the entire process and that includes heating, mixing, and washing. Yesterday I mixed the methoxide (5 grams of NaOH/200 mL methanol) and heated the veggie oil (1 liter) to about 130 degrees. I then mixed the two liquids in a 2 liter pop bottle. This process took about an hour and a half. After 5 minutes of vigorously shaking the bottle the biodiesel was left to sit so the glycerin settled at the bottom. Below is the mixed veggie oil/methoxide.



Day 2- After settling for 24 hours, the biodiesel looked like so..



The bottom layer, where I am pointing to, is the glycerin. I then decanted the biodiesel since it is less dense and began the washing process. I heated ~300 mL of distilled water and gently poured the water into the washing tank with the biodiesel. I then SLOWLY rotated the washing tank so the water has enough movement to extract the excess catalyst and form "soap". Since the water is more dense the final product seperates like below.


After the washing was completed the soap had to be removed and we were left with biodiesel. Right now, the biodiesel is sitting in the fume hood evaporating to its final pure biodiesel state. Here is a comparison of the three stages. From right to left the fluids are 1.) Glycerin with a small layer of biodiesel, 2.) Soap from the washing process, 3.) Biodiesel ready to be evaporated or "dried".



For the record, when I started the lab smelled like chemicals, now it smells like cookies because of the heated cookie oil. The one problem I have found is that veggie oil gets on everything and it does NOT wash off because it is not soluable in water. So I think I will start washing with mineral oil.

That's all for now...

Britt

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