Biodiesel: Fuel of Tomorrow
Tracy Sun
Sir Winston Churchill Secondary
Floor Location : M 123 E

Due to the fossil fuels being a non-renewable resource and the increased aware on the impact of greenhouse gas emissions, we began to divert our attention to alternative fuels such as biodiesel. Biodiesel is a renewable source of energy based on plant or animal fat and it is produced through transesterification. The reactants of transesterification are plant or animal based oil and alcohol, the products will be biodiesel, at the top, and glycerol at the bottom. Although biodiesel emits a similar amount of carbon dioxide as fossil fuels, it will be offsetted by the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed during the growth of the plants that will be made into biodiesel.
In my experiment, I used used corn oil, methanol, and a catalyst --- sodium hydroxide to perform transesterification. I questioned which ratio of oil vs. methanol will create the biodiesel that releases the most energy. Five biodiesels were made with different ratios (v/v)of 2:1, 4:3, 1:1, 4:5, and 2:3. By burning them to heat water, the raise in temperature was used to calculate their heating value into kilojoules. The experiments evaluates the heating value, the viscosity, the burning waste, and the side products of transesterification.
I found out that the biodiesel with a 4:6 ratio(v/v) for oil:methanol released the most energy, which was 7446.2 kJ/kg. By looking at the side products of transesterification of the biodiesels 2:1, 4:3, 1:1,and 4:5, I observed that saponification, the process of making soap through combining oil and sodium hydroxide, occurred and it further proved the 2:3 biodiesel was a better ratio. This experiment could lead to producing more efficient biodiesel with characteristics closer to those of petroleum oil and bring awareness on our fuel of tomorrow.