Making Biodiesel From Coconut Oil Cooking Dirt Is Easier

Catalysts such as sponges can alter biodiesel production and chemical plants. The picture shows a porous ceramic sponge made in the study (enlarged 20,000 times). Credit: RMIT University

New ultra-efficient catalysts can recycle old cooking oil into biodiesel and make pieces of wood into high value complex molecules.

Researchers have developed cheap and inexpensive methods to recycle cooking oil used and agricultural waste into biodiesel, and make pieces of wood and plastic waste into high value products.

His method uses a new type of ultra-efficient catalyst that can produce low-carbon biodiesel and other complex complex molecules from a variety of raw materials.

Waste cooking oil now has to go through an energy-intensive cleaning process for use in biodiesel, as commercial production methods can only secure pure feedstocks with 1-2% contaminants.

The tough new catalyst can produce biodiesel from a low grade material, known as feedstock, containing 50% contaminants.

Very effective it can double the productivity of the manufacturing process to convert waste such as pieces of wood, microplastics, and old tires into high value chemical precursors that are used to make any kind of drugs and fertilizers into biodegradable packaging.

Catalyst Bolu-Kaya

Graphic illustration showing how a catalyst performs a series of chemical reactions in a catalyst particle, with molecules entering the sponge through large pores (macropore) and then moving into smaller pores (mesopore). Credit: RMIT University

Catalyst design is reported in a recent study of international collaboration led by RMIT University, published in Katalitian Alam,

Co-lead investigator Professor Adam Lee, RMIT, stated that conventional catalyst technology relies on high purity raw materials and requires expensive engineering solutions to compensate for poor efficiency.

“The quality of modern life critically depends on the complex molecules to maintain our health and provide nutritious food, clean water and cheap energy,” Lee said.

“These molecules are now produced through a continuous chemical process that pollutes the atmosphere, soil and waterways.

“Our new catalyst can help us get the full value of resources that would normally be wasted – from rancid cooking oil to rice husks and vegetable skins – to advance the circular economy.

“And by radically expecting them, they can help us significantly reduce environmental pollution from chemical plants and bring us closer to the green chemical revolution.”

Catalyst sponge: advanced green chemistry

To create an efficient new catalyst, the team developed a micron-sized ceramic sponge (100 times thinner than human hair) that is very porous and contains different special active components.

The molecule first enters the sponge through large pores, where it is the first chemical reaction, then moves into a smaller hole where the second reaction takes place.

This is the first time a multi-function catalyst has been developed that can perform multiple chemical reactions in a single catalyst particle, and it could be a game exchange for the global catalyst market of $ US34 billion.

Investigator co-leader Professor Karen Wilson, also from RMIT, stated that the new catalyst design mimics the way enzymes in human cells coordinate complex chemical reactions.

“Catalysts have previously been developed that can react simultaneously, but this approach offers little control over chemicals and tends to be inefficient and unpredictable,” Wilson said.

“Our biologically inspired approach looks to natural catalysts – enzymes – to develop powerful and precise ways to perform multiple reactions in a precise sequence.

“They seem to have nanoscale production lines for chemical reactions – all stored in one, small catalyst particles and super efficient.”

Solar DIY: supports the production of distributed biofuel

Catalysts such as cheap foam are made, not using precious metals.

Making low carbon biodiesel from agricultural waste using this catalyst requires a little more than a large container, some gentle heating and stirring.

It is a low-cost, low-cost approach that can advance biofuel production and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

“This is especially important in developing countries where diesel is the primary fuel for household electricity generation,” Wilson said.

“If we can empower farmers to produce biodiesel directly from agricultural waste such as rice bran, cashew nuts and seed shells, on earth alone, this will help with the critical problem of energy poverty and carbon emissions.”

While new catalysts can be used directly for biodiesel production, with further development, they can be easily designed to produce jet fuel from agricultural and forestry wastes, old rubber tires, and even algae.

The next steps for the RMIT School of Science research team are to increase the production of catalysts from grams to kilograms and adopt 3D printing technology to accelerate commercialization.

“We also hope to expand the range of chemical reactions to include electrical and electrical activity for advanced technologies such as photosynthesis and fuel cells,” Lee said.

“And we are working with potential business partners to create multiple catalysts available for different applications.”

References: “A shell hierarchically orthogonal spatially sour–The catalyst for cascade and antagonistic reactions ”by Mark A. Isaacs, Christopher MA Parlett, Neil Robinson, Lee J. Durndell, Jinesh C. Manayil, Simon K. Beaumont, Shan Jiang, Nicole S. Hondow, Alexander C. Lamb, Deshetti Jampaiah, Michael L. Johns, Karen Wilson and Adam F. Lee, October 26, 2020, Katalitian Alam,
DOI: 10.1038 / s41929-020-00526-5

This research is supported through funding from the Australian Research Council (Discovery, Linkage, Industrial Transformation Training Center).

The study was conducted by collaborators from University College London, University of Manchester, University of Western Australia, University of Plymouth, Aston University, Durham University and the University of Leeds.

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