Biodiesel proponents are buzzing with excitement about the news of a greener and faster way to convert used vegitable oil into biodiesel. Two chemists from Brown University have figured out a way to convert used vegitable oil into biodiesel in 20 minutes, as compared to 2 hours. In addition to the faster conversion time the researchers also discovered how to complete the entire process without using toxic chemicals.
The research was published this week in the journal Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry.With the future of biodiesel looking to play a considerable role in the future fuel supply, scientists are continually looking for methods that do not compromise the environment in order to obtain greater efficiencies. “We wanted to develop an environmentally benign and technically simple way to convert waste vegetable oil into biodiesel,” said Jason Sello, assistant professor of chemistry. “The production of energy at the expense of the environment is untenable and should be avoided at all costs.” The scientists were able to replace the hazardous chemicals with the more benign catalysts bismuth triflate and scandium triflate, which are chemically stable, cheap and of limited toxicity. “While we have not yet proven the viability of our approach on an industrial scale,” Sello said, “we have identified very promising catalysts and reaction conditions that could, in principle, be used for large-scale conversion of waste vegetable oil into biodiesel in an environmentally sensitive manner.”