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How to Make Biodiesel at Home With Supermarket-Procurable Chemicals

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Hailed or blasphemed, the biodiesel is the cheapest and greenest alternative to the driver who doesn’t have anything but a diesel-drinking car, vegetable oil, some will and green heart. Here’s a recipe for making the fuel with elements you can buy from the supermarket.

First of all, you should be working in a highly ventilated area just because you’ll be using methanol, a highly-flammable substance in a mix with lye (potassium hydroxide).

For turning one liter of vegetable oil into a proper biodiesel fuel, you need 250 milliliters of methanol (which can be found in fuel line additives) and 4 grams of drain cleaner (lye) – Mr. Muscolo, Red Devil and the such. Of couse, you’ll need to wear protective glasses and rubber gloves, if you value your eyes/hands.

You should first mix the methanol and lye in a glass bottle until all the lye is dissolved into the methanol (forming what’s called “methoxide”). Next, you should heat up the vegetable oil to 140 ºF or 60 ºC. Pour the oil into a pop bottle (preferably a 2-liter one). Pour the methoxide into the heated oil, with a funnel, cap the bottle and shake vigorously for a couple of minutes. A commenter to this instructable says shaking it for an hour using a stir plate will yield better results.

The final part is the easiest to do and the hardest to wait for. During the next 20 minutes you’ll see glycerin forming at the bottom of the bottle, and the upper layer will be cloudy. After a couple of days, the upper layer will become crystal clear and will be ready to use as fuel.

Here’s a video I found after I wrote this piece, explaining and showing the exact steps you need to take to have your own biodiesel.

Update: Just make sure you also follow our reader Spencer’s advice on safety precautions in the comments section below.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Great article, but two safety points.

    1). Be sure to let the bottle of KOH/methanol adequately cool before handling. This mixture is very exothermic and you can burn your hands on the bottle. This reaction also generates hydrogen gas and that will need to be vented occasionally as the KOH/methanol reaction progresses.

    2). Methanol can be absorbed through the skin, so no short sleeved shirts or exposed skin while handling methanol. In sufficient quantity, methanol is metabolized by the liver into formaldehyde which will cause blindness from destruction of the optic nerves.

    Just want to keep people safe in this very productive hobby!

    Cheers,

    Spencnaz

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