September 14, 2015

Biodiesel made easy with waste-recycling catalyst


(September 15, 2015)  University researchers develop catalyst to recycle waste and increase the yield of biodiesel

Researchers from the Cardiff Catalysis Institute have devised a way of increasing the yield of biodiesel by using the waste left over from its production process.

Using simple catalysis, the researchers have been able to recycle a non-desired by-product produced when biodiesel is formed from vegetable oil, and convert this into an ingredient to produce even more biodiesel.

It is believed this new process will have significant environmental benefits by improving the yield of biodiesel in a sustainable way that doesn’t require the use of additional fossil fuels, and could potentially reduce the costs of the biodiesel production process.

The results have been published today, 14 September, in the journal Nature Chemistry.

By 2020, the EU aims to have 10 per cent of the transport fuel of every EU country come from renewable sources such as biofuels. Fuel suppliers are also required to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of the EU fuel mix by 6 per cent by 2020 in comparison to 2010.

At present, biodiesel is produced by combining fats and oils with methanol, which is usually derived from fossil fuels. A waste product from this process is crude glycerol, which is formed on a large scale and contains many impurities that make it costly to purify and re-use in other areas.

In their study, the researchers developed a way of turning the crude glycerol back into methanol, which could then be used as a starting reactant to create more biodiesel.

To achieve this, the researchers reacted glycerol with water, to provide the element hydrogen, and a magnesium oxide (MgO) catalyst. The reaction involved a simple one-step process and could be performed using mild conditions.

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