Synthesis and Characterization of a Novel Solid Acid Catalyst for Improved Use of Waste Oil Feedstock for Biodiesel Production

EPA Grant Number: SU833513
Title: Synthesis and Characterization of a Novel Solid Acid Catalyst for Improved Use of Waste Oil Feedstock for Biodiesel Production
Investigators: Webster, H. Francis , Bean, Bryan B. , Hash, Sabrina R.
Current Investigators: Webster, H. Francis , Bean, Bryan B. , Estes, Christopher , Fuhrer, Timothy J.
Institution: Radford University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: August 1, 2008 through July 31, 2010
Project Amount: $9,996
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 - Materials & Chemicals , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Challenge Area: Materials and Chemicals

The interest in alternative fuels has increased dramatically in recent years due to the rising cost and the environmental concerns related to fossil fuels use. Biodiesel represents a non-toxic and carbon-neutral fuel representing one component in our strategic approach to reduce dependence on petroleum based fuels. While interest in biodiesel has increased in recent years, costs still remain high, particularly when using refined oil feed stocks. Concern exists, however, about the conversion of agricultural land and deforestation in developing countries for oil production to meet demand for biodiesel production. Waste oil feedstock including yellow and brown grease can be utilized, but processing is more difficult due to the high free fatty acid content.

We propose to meet the challenge of increasing the use of waste oil for biodiesel production through the development of novel carbon catalyst for the esterification of fatty acids, essentially removing them from waste feedstock. The catalyst will be non-toxic, inexpensive, and easy to produce using “green” methods, allowing adoption of the technology by not only interested businesses but by individuals in the growing biodiesel community both in the developed and developing world. Using a novel one-pot reactor, functionalized carbon will be synthesized in minutes using only sucrose and sulfuric acid. In this Phase I project, characterization will include the use of standard surface chemical techniques, and the conversion of oleic acid, a major fatty acid in soybean oil, to its corresponding methyl and ethyl ester will be evaluated at moderate temperatures using a micro-scale reactor. Fatty acid esterification will be monitored using an infrared spectroscopic technique requiring only micro-liter samples amounts. The catalytic activity will be optimized by varying the reaction conditions and post-reaction thermal treatments, and will be used to test the removal of free fatty acids in simulated waste vegetable oil systems. Student chemists will team with the members of the Green Team Organization at Radford University to complete this project. A special topics course devoted to green chemistry will be developed and the results from this project incorporated as novel experiments in our capstone Integrated Laboratory chemistry course.

Supplemental Keywords:

Green chemistry, catalysts, solid acid catalyst, carbon catalyst, vegetable oil, waste vegetable oil, biodiesel, biofuel, fatty acids, alternative fuels, esterification, transesterification, infrared spectroscopy,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Environment, Energy, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Environmental Engineering, sustainable development, environmental sustainability, alternative materials, biomass, energy efficiency, energy technology, alternative fuel, biodiesel fuel, alternative energy source

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2009
  • Final Report