[Vwdiesel] Reactor converts vegetable oil into biodiesel

Andrew Buc AndrewBuc at staxman.net
Thu Apr 20 13:25:08 EDT 2006

This from today's Seattle Times:


Reactor converts vegetable oil into biodiesel

By William McCall
The Associated Press

PORTLAND — A tiny chemical reactor that can convert vegetable oil  
directly into biodiesel could help farmers turn some of their crops  
into homegrown fuel to operate agricultural equipment instead of  
relying on costly imported oil.

"This is all about producing energy in such a way that it liberates  
people," said Goran Jovanovic, a chemical-engineering professor at  
Oregon State University who developed the microreactor.

The device — about the size of a credit card — pumps vegetable oil and  
alcohol through tiny parallel channels, each smaller than a human hair,  
to convert the oil into biodiesel almost instantly.

By comparison, it takes more than a day to produce biodiesel with  
current technology.

Conventional production involves dissolving a catalyst, such as sodium  
hydroxide, in alcohol, then stirring it into vegetable oil in large  
vats for about two hours.

The mixture then has to sit for 12 to 24 hours, while a slow chemical  
reaction forms biodiesel along with glycerin, a byproduct.

The glycerin is separated and can be used to make other products, such  
as soaps.

But it still contains the chemical catalyst, which must be neutralized  
and removed using hydrochloric acid — a long and costly process.

The microreactor under development by the university and the Oregon  
Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute eliminates the mixing, the  
standing time and maybe even the need for a catalyst.

"If we're successful with this, nobody will ever make biodiesel any  
other way," Jovanovic said.

The device is small, but it can be stacked in banks to increase  
production levels to the volume required for commercial use, he said.

More information about the Vwdiesel mailing list