Biodiesel – the fuel of the future
Biodiesel is the fuel produced from extracting oil from animal fats, plants or waste. Scientifically, biodiesel is called fatty acid methyl esters.Some of the sources of biodiesel include rapeseed, soya beans, and corn. Since some of these are also sources of food, there is a Fuel vs Food debate on biodiesel production from food sources. Therefore, a lot of research is being done on producing biodiesel from inedible sources. Some examples include sandbox seeds and cotton seeds.
Biodiesel is produced through esterification process of oil extracted from the seeds. Firstly, the seeds are cleaned and dried. Then, oil is extracted from the seeds via processes such as soxhlet extraction or by mixing the oil with sulfur dioxide. The oil extracted is then refined and esterified by a reaction between the oil and alcohol as the base. A catalyst can be used to enhance the reaction. The time and temperature depend on the type of alcohol and oil used. Once the reaction completes, the alcohol is evaporated using rotary evaporation.
The use of biodiesel is important as it comes from natural renewable resources. It also helps reduce carbon footprint where the carbon footprint emitted is countered by planting sources like sandbox seeds and cotton seeds for further production. Biodiesel is an important technology which can significantly help overcome the problem of fossil fuel and natural gas depletion. Therefore, more research is to be done to prepare biodiesel on large scales to overcome the depletion.