Sustainable Conversion of Vegetable Oils to Biodiesel


Sustainable Conversion of Vegetable Oils to Biodiesel

"Waste not, want not" is an old saying that is one of those clichés that became a cliché because it is true. In the country's quest to make alternative energy sources viable, independent, and sustainable, the conversion of vegetable oil into clean-burning biodiesel fuel is proving to be one of the most promising new sources of power. Recent research conducted by Dr. Mary Kate Mitchell, Ph.D., at Yale University has proven that biodiesel fuel reduces carbon emissions by a ton for every 100 gallons used. In order for the fuel to be sustainable, the actual process of fuel synthesis has to be sustainable as well as the source. Industrial mixers play a vital part towards realizing that very important end; researchers use them extensively and regularly in their laboratory work to make sure that the amount of energy used in this process is as low as possible.

Why Use Biodiesel Fuel

The main attraction of the use of biodiesel fuel is that it is a renewable and thus sustainable source of oil for the future. By having multiple choices of energy available to the consumer, that means one can fall back on the other in an emergency if the other fails to operate. In addition, it is a means of keeping used cooking oil from going to waste because the process involves taking that oil and removing the impurities and food residue.

Where To Get Oil for Biodiesel Fuel

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Restaurants cook with oil on a daily basis, so they are sure to have a lot of leftover oil that they do not want because they have reached the limits of how much cooking they can actually do with it. For Dr. Mitchell's research, which she presented at the National Biodiesel Expo in January 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas, she used canola, coconut, and palm oils to see how the process actually works with some of the more common types of vegetable oils used for cooking.

Other vegetables and legumes that are commonly made into cooking oils include avocado, olive, peanut, walnut, soybean, canola, sunflower, and cottonseed. Some biodiesel manufacturers also use animal fats, such as beef tallow and lard, in the production process, but Dr. Mitchell's research happened to focus exclusively on those three particular plant-based oils.

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How To Make The Conversion Process Sustainable

Sustainability requires more than just a regular source of oil. It also requires a conversion process that does not add more impurities into the mix, but removes them instead, and does so by using as few steps as possible. Most companies that use this process use organic solvents in a process of homogeneous catalysis, which requires extra steps in order to purify it. While working in the laboratory of Dr. Julie Zimmerman, Dr. Mitchell discovered that she could make the actual process of converting vegetable oils to biodiesel fuel more sustainable with the use of heterogeneous catalysis in the form of carbon dioxide. It is sustainable, non-toxic, and something that occurs in nature; even exhaling generates it. This process resulted in a conversion ratio of 38-42%, much better than the 30% average that the homogeneous catalysis process would generate.

The main advantage of the heterogeneous process over the homogeneous type is that the former allows the refiners to recapture the carbon dioxide from the solution and reuse it. This is the same process used in the making of beer and coffee, and Dr. Mitchell found that the process of catalysis started when the mixer she used was at 1,100 psi and 88°F.


Imagine a future where the same oil used in the preparation of food is also used to power automobile engines. That future is the present. When scientific minds work together, they can come up with solutions to pressing problems that affect both the environment and the people in it who have to deal with the real-world effects of human activity on a daily basis. One of the best means to that end, and one that is going to create a lot of peace and prosperity in the long term, is the use of industrial mixers in the sustainable conversion of vegetable oils to biodiesel.

A far cry from its humble beginnings as a dream of environmentalists in the 1980s, biodiesel is now a multi-billion dollar industry. In the 21st century, the process of creating biodiesel fuel out of vegetable oil has gotten cleaner than ever thanks to the thorough research of Dr. Mary Kate Mitchell, Ph.D., and her discovery that heterogeneous catalysis with carbon dioxide made the process more efficient and sustainable. The future potential for this particular type of energy is limitless, and the production process is sure to become even more efficient and sustainable in the years to come. Without high-powered industrial mixers, her work would not be possible.


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