Zero Waste Biodiesel: Using Glycerin and Biomass to Create Renewable Energy

EPA Grant Number: SU833526
Title: Zero Waste Biodiesel: Using Glycerin and Biomass to Create Renewable Energy
Investigators: Norbeck, Joseph , Brady, Sean , Leung, Gregory , Phan, Quoc-Hung , Salam, Christopher , Tam, Kawai , Urak, Ryan
Current Investigators: Norbeck, Joseph , Brady, Sean , Leung, Gregory , Phan, Quoc-Hung , Salam, Christopher , Tam, Kawai
Institution: University of California - Riverside
Current Institution: University of California - Riverside , University of California - Davis
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: August 31, 2007 through March 31, 2008
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2007) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Technical Challenge to Sustainability: With the advent of alternative fuels, biodiesel is becoming extremely popular since vehicle modification is unnecessary. However, the creation of biodiesel from vegetable oil in a transesterification generates a glycerin waste product, which has flooded the market for commercial glycerin in the United States. This waste stream needs to be explored for industrial and personal use as a new energy source.

Innovative Design Approach with Technical Merit to Address the Challenges: Developing an innovative product and process for making a new product from the glycerin waste is our focus. By combining the biodiesel glycerin with waste stream biomass, such as sawdust or used paper, a new product can be formed that is combustible. This product would be valuable because the raw materials are low in cost and the product is fully carbon neutral. We are seeking the means to develop a pilot scale mechanical device to synthesize a solid combustible form of glycerin and biomass for the investigation and evaluation of this waste as an alternative energy source.


Challenge and Proposed Design Relating to Sustainability: The challenges faced in this project are coordinating the supplies of waste products within a community. With the increasing popularity of biodiesel, glycerin waste product as well as purified glycerin supplies are accumulating within the chemical industry. To tap into a profitable, growing market and eliminate the waste streams of the process could truly move people towards sustainability.

Strategy for Measuring Results, Evaluations and Implementation: A series of experiments will systematically test the effects of a number of parameters including glycerin to biomass ratios, types and particle size of biomass materials. The use of a bomb calorimeter will help optimize the product with the highest calorific value for energy applications. While incinerating the solid for energy, an emissions analysis will also be conducted.

Expected Results:

How P3 concepts will be used as an educational tool: The Zero Waste Biodiesel project will showcase the sustainability nature of fuel generation from waste materials to students. A capstone senior design project analyzing this process and its scale up has recently been integrated. We intend to help this project grow by developing contacts with biodiesel producers and members of the agricultural industry.

Supplemental Keywords:

life-cycle analysis, clean technologies, waste reduction, waste minimization, environmentally conscious manufacturing,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Environment, Energy, Technology for Sustainable Environment, sustainable development, environmental sustainability, alternative materials, biomass, alternative fuel, biodiesel fuel, energy efficiency, energy technology, alternative energy source

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report