Wake Forest Develops Cost-Cutting Biodiesel Catalyst

John Davis

wakeforestu2Biodiesel makers have been extending their feedstocks into the various types of oils, including waste greases and even animal fats. But the problem is converting the free fatty acids in the feedstocks into biodiesel, sometimes a long and costly process. Well, it looks like researchers at Wake Forest University have found a way to do it quicker and cheaper.

This article from PhysOrg.com says the scientists believe they have a formula for a catalyst that will speed up the biodiesel-making process so that the green fuel could provide 5 percent of the nation’s fuel needs:

“If we, as a nation, can do that, that’s enough biodiesel to replace the need for oil from a country such as Iraq,” said Abdessadek Lachgar, a chemistry professor at the university and one of two officials supervising the project along with Marcus Wright, a lab manager and investigator in the biodiesel work…

Lachgar said that the main challenge with using the waste from vegetable oil, animal fat and recycled cooking grease is the high presence of free fatty acids, which significantly impair biodiesel production.

That’s where the Terrafinity catalyst comes into play. Researchers are developing an inexpensive method for converting the free fatty acids into biodiesel with a yield greater than 98 percent in less than 15 minutes. The catalyst can be produced for 11 cents a gram in the laboratory, although Lachgar said that the per-gram cost will be significantly reduced in a commercial setting.

The project right now costs about $85,000… a small cost when you consider how much it could make for the biodiesel industry and how much it could save us from foreign oil.