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Indian Researchers Producing Biodiesel from Used Cooking Oil


Biodiesel made out of Used Oil from College Canteen Researchers from Modern College of Pune, India, produced biodiesel from used cooking oil, which would otherwise be thrown away by the contractor of their college canteen.

While many commercial kitchens heat oil till a point at which it is not useful for cooking anymore, consumption of dishes made from excessive heating of oil increases levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in blood and thus increases the risk of heart diseases.

But finding a healthy, economic and environment-friendly utility to such oil is certainly an achievement. Biodiesel’s characteristics like nontoxic and biodegradable in nature, and it being a fuel product that doesn’t emit sulphur into earth’s atmosphere makes it environment-friendly.

Dr. Santosh Gopale who guided this project said The Green Optimistic “We have created this biodiesel through the transesterification process. Initially, we have tested with a biodiesel blend of 60% biodiesel and 40 % petroleum diesel and the generator ran successfully. Our Next step is to test it with 100% of biodiesel and we are confident of achieving positive results”. He further added “During a discussion, our college Principal Sri Zunjarrao Rajendra Shankar came up with this idea of producing biodiesel from the used cooking oil,”

Ganesh Shinde, a botany student, who was already researching on bioenergy cultivation concepts and on the lookout for a proper raw material, took up this project with an idea that used oil could also carry the properties that could yield bio-fuel. The project was a part of the ‘Young Scientists Initiative’, sponsored by his college.

“All the nutrients vanish from the used edible oil, leaving behind the triglycerides, replete with fatty acids. To this, methanol, concentrated acid and sodium hydroxide was added to release energy,” says Dr Gopale. Unsaturated triglycerides are the main constituents of vegetable oil. During transesterification process, triglycerides splits into their components – 3 fatty acids and glycerol. The resulting fatty acid esters can be used as fuel in diesel engines.

Dr Dilip Dhawale, Head of the Department, Chemistry, Savitribai Phule Pune University says, “Turning into a polymeric material with use, cooking oil lends itself for creating diesel. There are different methods to prepare biodiesel, but not all of them are feasible given the cost and time involved”.

Agreeing, Dr Abhijeet Shirke, managing director of Shirke Energy, an Indian biodiesel manufacturer, which extracts biodiesel for various types of biomass, says “Used oil definitely has the potential to become bio-diesel. But in India this has not taken off due to hurdles in procuring raw material. We are yet to evolve a sustainable system of collecting used oil and there is always the fear of adulteration.” Pune Mirror notes.

Dr. Gopale further says to The Green Optimistic: “Initially, we have produced 200 ml of Biodiesel from a litre of used cooking oil and the process costed us around 1 USD for 1 litre of biodiesel (apart from manpower, raw material and machinery – which, in college, came for free anyway). If it could be produced in large-scale, the cost per litre would drop further. We are thinking of producing it in large-scale if we get enough funding.”

While Shinde says “We are working on identifying different uses for the fuel we have produced, to understand what appliances can run on it,” , Dr.Gopale is positive that it would be the best alternative when there is a shortage of electricity and could even be used for agricultural purposes like water lifting and running a tractor.

Dr Zunjarrao says, “The initiative is giving our students first-hand experience of working on research, where they not only have to generate an idea, but also sell it to the faculty for selection and work it to its feasible end.”

Image(c) : Pune Mirror



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    1) Strained, used cooking oil;

    2) Mix with Lye;

    3) Allow to ‘set-up’;

    4) Chemical reaction:
    a) “Ivory” Soap floats to the top’.
    b) Diesel Fuel in the middle; and
    c) Compost at the bottom

    5) NO WASTE

    Note: The new fuel CAN NOT be used unless it’s ‘VISCOSITY’ (thickness) is changed to match the viscosity of the fuel the diesel engine was designed to accept; OR the new fuel can be ‘HEATED’ to dilute the viscosity; BUT is never left in the existing fuel lines as thicker fuel is not considered in the diesel engine’s ‘starting specifications’. Ideally in the latter, a second fuel tank would be used, with a valve to allow the second tank to ‘kick-in’ once the engine is running, and to switch back, just before the engine is shut down.


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