Here at Utah Biodiesel Supply, we get some really cool emails sometimes and every now and then we get some incredible opportunities to help students explore biodiesel and learn more about this amazing alternative fuel.
Well, a few weeks back we received a really neat email from Kirsten Wolcott, an 11th grade student at Richmond Academy in Richmond, Virginia. Kirsten had chosen to do her science fair on Biodiesel. She was interested in some materials on Biodiesel and, as always, we JUMPED at the chance!
We packed up a box really quick & packed it with all sorts of goodies (bumper stickers, decals, books, samples, a copy of Girl Mark’s great Biodiesel Production book, and a bunch of other goodies we thought would be beneficial) and sent it off in the mail.
Seems we were right on time, as the package arrived in time to be used for Kirsten’s Science Fair Project.
Now, we could end it there & say, “Yipee! We got to help a student out!” but wait, there’s more!
Not only did Kirsten’s Science Project come off as a raging success, but IT WON FIRST PLACE!!!!
How’s THAT for incredibly cool! Needless to say we were THRILLED for her and quickly offered to brag about her & her newfound success here on our blog.
Kirsten was kind enough to send us some pictures of the project and the outline of her project, which we’re presenting below (yeah, we think it’s cool & we wanna brag!). Her project was ingenious but simple in nature and just goes to show how versatile Biodiesel really can be!
So, without further adeau, we now present for your reading pleasure the outline of Kirsten Wolcott’s Blue Ribbon Prize Winning Biodiesel Science Fair Project!
Enjoy! (We sure did!).
Biodiesel Science Fair Project by Kirsten Wolcott
(The one & only FIRST PLACE PRIZE WINNING Kirsten Wolcott we might add)
Can I make homemade biodiesel from a restaurant’s waste oil?
I will be able to make biodiesel by recycling cooking oil that will burn brighter than regular cooking oil (canola).
Once the biodiesel was dry, I burned it and the canola oil each in there own lantern. The lantern with canola oil didn’t burn as bright and had a more orange flame, where as the biodiesel had a bright yellow to white flame and burned very well. My only regret is that I couldn’t test it in an actual small diesel engine to see if it would really work or if it would be more efficient than regular diesel.
My hypothesis was correct. I was able to make the biodiesel and it burned brighter and had a more yellow colored flame than the regular oil. The entire process was not too difficult or expensive. It was recycling old oil that you can get for free. The only things you have to pay for are the chemicals and other materials (refer to material list).
So, think about it, by using renewable resources, such as vegetable oils, we can make this cleaner, more efficient fuel. Maybe one day all our diesel vehicles will run on this fuel that came from the fryer to our fuel tanks.
[Utah Biodiesel Supply Insert—We hope so too!]
So is that cool or what!?
Here’s how she went about doing the project (again, really ingenious!)
The first thing I had to do was go to my local McDonald’s and ask them if I could use a liter of their used oil. They readily accepted and gave me a 32 oz. cup full of fryer oil. Once I got the oil I put it on the magnetic stirrer hotplate and let it heat up for about an hour. I did this to try to drive off any water that could
have been in the oil from the fryer impurities.
Next, I measured out 5 grams of Potassium Hydroxide (KOH) and put it in a plastic glove to keep it from absorbing water from the air. (Water can interfere with the reaction.) I set this aside and measured out 200 ml of methanol.I poured the methanol into a high density polyethylene (HDPE) container. You have to use this type of container otherwise the methanol will eat through whatever you put it in. I added the KOH to the methanol and put it on the vortex mixer until the KOH was completely dissolved.
Then, I put the methanol/KOH mixture and the oil into a beaker and put it on the magnetic stirrer hotplate and let it mix thoroughly for about half an hour. When this was done, I put it into an empty 2 liter soda bottle to settle. I let the mixture settle for about 24 hours. When this time was up, you could see two distinct layers:
a lighter yellowish colored liquid on top and a dark brownish colored liquid settled on the bottom. The lighter layer is the biodiesel and the darker layer is the glycerin by-product.
I needed to separate these two layers, so I took a nail and poked a hole in the soda bottle just above the glycerin layer and allowed the biodiesel to come out of the hole and transferred it into another 2 liter soda bottle. I used duct tape to cover up the hole so I could use the bottle again later in the process.
Once the biodiesel was in the new bottle, I added half a liter of water and shook the bottle as hard as I could. This process is known as washing. After the water and biodiesel were completely mixed and had a milky appearance, I let it settle.
Washing allows the water to dissolve any particles of waste material in the biodiesel. The waste settles on the bottom. You will see a distinct layering process between the dirty water and the biodiesel. Again, you must separate the biodiesel
from the other waste by using the same method as in the above paragraph. I washed the biodiesel three times and each time the water got clearer and more transparent.
After the third washing, I separated the biodiesel from the waste and put it into a glass jar. I put the glass jar in a small pan of water and boiled it until it reached 50 degrees Celsius.
This helps to speed up the drying process. You know the biodiesel is dry and ready to use when it is clear (not colorless but translucent).
Once the biodiesel sat for awhile I put it into a small alcohol burner. I put the canola oil in a homemade lantern that I made out of a glass root beer bottle with a hole in the top and the seam of an old pair of underwear(yes, underwear) as the wick.
Both these burners worked but I believed that for the comparison to be fair both fuels would have to be burned in the same type of burner with the same kind of wick.
So, I bought two small lanterns and filled one with biodiesel and the other with canola oil. I lit both at the same time and saw that the biodiesel burned much better and brighter than the canola oil.
1 liter of used oil
2 small lanterns
2- two liter soda bottles
200 ml of methanol
5 glass jars
5 grams of KOH
Magnetic stirrer hotplate and magnetic stirring bar
Measuring beakers for methanol and oil
One HDPE container
Again, we were thrilled to hear about Kirstens success & wish her continued success in all her scientific adventures (hopefully more of which may involve Biodiesel).
Way to go Kirsten!
The Rabid Biodiesel Nut