Making Biodiesel in the Classroom April Lanotte Big Sandy Schools

Making Biodiesel in the
April Lanotte
Big Sandy Schools
[email protected]
What is Biodiesel?
• Biodiesel is made from vegetable oil or animal
fat (triglycerides) reacted with methanol or
ethanol and a catalyst (lye), yielding biodiesel
(fatty acid methyl or ethyl esters) and glycerin
as a by-product
– Fatty acid chains are removed from the chemical
reaction by a catalyst (KOH), then bound with
methanol, creating biodiesel. Glycerol, the
remaining part of the triglyceride, is a byproduct
of the reaction, which is later removed before use.
Why Biodiesel?
• One gallon of petroleum diesel fuel, once combusted,
releases 22.384 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere.
Biodiesel does not contribute extra CO2 into the
• Biodiesel reduces particulate matter emissions by at least
55%, VOCs by 55%, and CO by 45% compared to fossil
diesel. * (different sources have provided different figures—I’ve taken the lowest of the figures)
• Biodiesel is lower in sulfur—reduction in SO2 in the
atmosphere (which contributes to acid rain). Jet fuel:
3,000+ ppm sulfur; US off-road diesel: 500+ ppm; US regular
road diesel 15-500 ppm; US ultra-low sulfur diesel: 15 ppm
(2004 US Transportation Research Board report)
• Biodiesel can be made from just about any kind of fat or oil.
Who’s Using Biodiesel?
• Airlines (Virgin Atlantic, Continental Airlines,
Air New Zealand, and Japan Airlines)…Eight total
US airlines that operate out of LAX have also signed a deal to
use more than 1.5 million gallons of biodiesel a year for their
ground vehicles starting in 2012.
Biodiesel Use cont…
• Commerical trucks
• Personal diesel trucks, cars, SUVs
• Farm equipment
Home biodiesel-kit
Biodiesel set-up cont…
Biodiesel set-up part three…
Biodiesel Lab
• Materials needed:
Gloves, goggles, aprons
Buret set-up and funnel (for titrations)
125 ml Erlenmeyer flasks
Graduated cylinders
100 ml, 250 ml beakers
Half-pint jars with lids (2 per group)
Weigh boats
Vegetable oil (various sources, including virgin oil and used vegetable oil)
0.1 M KOH
Isopropyl alcohol
Bromophenol Blue
0.01 M HCl
Biodiesel Lab Activities
• Activity One: Feedstock Titration
– Titration activity to test for free fatty acids
within the feedstock sample
– Used to determine amount of KOH that will
be needed in biodiesel production
• Activity Two: Biodiesel Production
– Making biodiesel using virgin vegetable oil
• Activity Three: Advanced Biodiesel Production
– Making biodiesel using used vegetable oil
Biodiesel Lab Activites cont…
• Activity Three: Soap Titration
– Calculate the amount of soap created when making biodiesel
– Less soap is better!!! (highway quality biodiesel production
standards conduct 19 different tests—soap analysis is not one of
them. However, soap content can affect many other fuel quality
• Activity Four: Quality Control Option #2
– Methanol test—dissolving biodiesel into methanol—any remaining
triglycerides won’t dissolve in methanol and will settle to bottom
of the flask
Activity Five: Testing Biodiesel—Comparing Heat of Combustion
(biodiesel vs. diesel)
-- using a set-up similar to a calorimeter, burn samples of fuel-soaked
candle-wicking set under aluminum cans with water inside for 5
min.—compare mass of fuel burned and change in water temps.
Activity Six: Testing Biodiesel #2—Engines
--Use a small diesel-powered R/C engine to test your fuel, or make
small steam-powered, diesel boat engines
Activity One: Feedstock
• Purpose: To determine the
amount of Free Fatty Acids
within feedstock sample
• Materials Needed:
Gloves, goggles, aprons
Buret set-up and funnel
Graduated cylinder
Feedstock samples (used
vegetable oil)
– Phenolphthalein
– Isopropyl alcohol
– 0.1 M KOH
Activity Two: Biodiesel
Production from virgin
vegetable oil
Purpose: to convert unused
vegetable oil into usable fuel
Materials Needed:
– Gloves, goggles, aprons
– Weigh boat
– Scoop
– 250 mL beaker
– 100 mL Graduated
– Virgin vegetable oil
– Half-pint jars with lids
– Methanol
– KOH flakes
SAFETY: Methanol, KOH, and
the resulting methoxide are
nasty chemicals. DO NOT
• Procedures:
• 1.) Lab Partner One: In one
jar, pour 30 mL of methanol
and put lid on.
• 2.) Lab Partner Two: Take
weigh boat and metal
scoop—measure out 1.05 g
• 3.) Add KOH to jar of
methanol. Replace lid and
shake until flakes of KOH are
fully dissolved. (The jar will
get warm from the
exothermic reaction!)
Activity Two cont…
• 4.) Measure 150 mL of vegetable oil into a 250 mL
• 5.) Add oil into the jar of dissolved KOH and methanol
• 6.) Replace lid on jar (make sure it’s on tight!!) and
place tape around seal. DO NOT INHALE!
• 7.) Take turns shaking the jar vigorously for a total of 10
• 8.) Allow the solution to settle…you will begin to see
the separation of the biodiesel and the glycerine within
a minute or two (the glycerine will settle to the
Activity Three: Soap Titration
• Purpose: To test the
quality of biodiesel
(soap is a by-product of
unreacted Free Fatty
Acids and KOH)
• Materials Needed:
Gloves, goggles, aprons
Buret set-up and funnel
125 mL Erlenmeyer flask
250 mL beaker
0.01 M HCL
Isopropyl alcohol
1% bromophenol blue
Activity Four: Methanol Test
• Purpose: Another way
to test biodiesel quality
(FFA will not fully
dissolve in methanol)
• Materials Needed:
– Biodiesel sample
– Methanol
– 50 mL Graduated
– 500 mL beaker
Sources for Biodiesel Info.
– Journey to Forever site: This is a great site with more
information than any one person could use—this site has crosslinks with all sorts of other sites, and has many references for
– This US Dept. of Energy site contains lots of technical
information about alternative fuels, and in this section, about
– School Power…Naturally site: website that includes many
different alternative energy lessons, including analysis of
burning fossil fuels
More sources…
– The National Biodiesel Board website contains many links to
different biodiesel sources.
-- Piedmont Biofuels, the original developers of Carolina
Biological’s biodiesel lab, offers college-level training,
explanations, etc. about biodiesel, along with industry
processes and testing info. and education links and lessons.
– This site is a good source for purchasing biodiesel-making