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Better method developed to make biodiesel
[June 19, 2006]

Better method developed to make biodiesel

(UPI Science News Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Iowa State University scientists say they are using chemistry and nanotechnology to create a better way to make biodiesel by using tiny nanospheres.

The research, led by Associate Chemistry Professor Victor Lin, is supported by a $1.8 million, three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a $120,000, two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and a $140,000 grant from the Grow Iowa Values Fund.

Current biodiesel production technology reacts soy oil with methanol using toxic, corrosive and flammable sodium methoxide as a catalyst, Lin said. Getting biodiesel from that chemical mix requires acid neutralization, water washes and separation steps in a tedious process.

So Lin and his team developed a nanotechnology that accurately controls the production of tiny, uniformly shaped silica particles. Running all the way through the particles are honeycombs of relatively large channels that can be filled with a catalyst that reacts with soybean oil to create biodiesel.

The results, Lin says, include faster conversion to biodiesel, a catalyst that can be recycled and elimination of the wash step in the production process.

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