Vegetable oil is a good source of energy but it is much too viscous to work effectively as a fuel. An effective biodiesel, however, can be produced by breaking down vegetable oil through transesterfication. Many reports on the preparation of biodiesel require more time than is allotted for the typical organic laboratory period and utilize analysis techniques not available to the average laboratory. The research preformed has adapted a simple synthesis of biodiesel which students can safely carry out in two and a half hours, that yields sufficiently pure material. By varying catalysts, reaction time, reaction temperature, and the ratio of catalyst to waste vegetable oil we have determined the best procedure for safe utilization in a sophomore level organic chemistry laboratory. It has been found that a procedure in which potassium methoxide is heated with waste vegetable oil yields the best results in the most efficient manner. A series of simple tests to analyze the biodiesel that can be readily preformed in any lab have also been developed. NMR analysis was used to demonstrate the successful conversion of waste vegetable oil to biodiesel.
Brittany Gitch, ’06 Fredericksburg, IA
Sponsor: Charles Liberko