The amount of usable fossil fuels is steadily decreasing as the world population increases. This has driven scientists to find alternative resources for fossil fuels. One alternative is converting vegetable oil to biodiesel by means of transesterification. This reaction most commonly is catalyzed by a base; however, with used vegetable oil, the product has a lower yield due to soap production. Acid catalysis, while slower, shows the promise of a much higher yield of biodiesel from used vegetable oil. Initial experiments showed that sulfuric acid, as a catalyst, produced biodiesel in good yield, in a reasonable time. Further experiments showed that both the kinetics and equilibrium position of the reaction are dependent on the chain length of alcohol used for transesterification.
Steven Murray ’08 Marshalltown, IA
Major: Chemistry – ACS Certified
Sponsor: Charles Liberko