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Breakthrough in Biodiesel Production

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the waiting-for-low-carb-fuel dept.

Power 406

MGR writes "National Geographic is reporting that Japanese scientists have discovered a way to convert vegetable oil into biodiesel with a much less expensive catalyst (between 10 and 50 times cheaper) than what is currently used. From the article: 'Any vegetable oil can become fuel, but not until its fatty acids are converted to chemical compounds known as esters. Currently the acids used to convert the fatty acids are prohibitively expensive. Michikazu Hara, of the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Yokohama, Japan, and his colleagues have used common, inexpensive sugars to form a recyclable solid acid that does the job on the cheap.'"

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406 comments

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But the current method is just fine (-1, Flamebait)

Proctal Relapse (467579) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120717)

Chinks use enough oil frying their shitty food that they can power every fucking 40 year old Soviet car in the whole fucking place.

Re:But the current method is just fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14120754)

OKAY..... so this is about Japanese scientists (note the location is in TOKYO).... and think about it: CHINK means CHINESE..... so take your raciest comments back to you parents basement and get a life....

http://kpearson.faculty.tcnj.edu/Dictionary/chink. htm [tcnj.edu]

MOD DOWN PARENT - RACISM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14120794)

As a Chinese person, I am offended by your use of the word ch*nk. Please do not use this, there are many decades of a history of hate and bigotry associated with that word.

Re:MOD DOWN PARENT - RACISM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14120908)

Although I'm not Chinese, I certainly share your offense to the word "ch*nk". Nevertheless, you might want to look at the parent of the parent of your post. He's the one who appears to be racist. Anonymous Coward was just telling him off.

Re:MOD DOWN PARENT - RACISM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14120963)

Here are some helpful clues:

1. Chinese is not a race.

2. The use of the term is offensive and hateful, regardless of context.

Finally! (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14120723)

I hope we can finally dump our dependence on foreign oil. If this sort of thing really comes through, the Saudis are going to be PISSED.

BioDiesel doubles as Anal Lube (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14120892)

For the fucking "green" faggots who use it.
Pay your share of fuel taxes homo.

Re:Finally! (-1, Flamebait)

coleblak (863392) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120913)

Sure, then comes our dependence on an expensive formula from Japan. A country we dropped two nuclear weapons on that has a political movement that wants to become a superpower again and try to drop a nuke on us.

Re:Finally! (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14120928)

Great. So we're no longer dependent on desert barbarians, but instead on grassland barbarians (Khazakstan, Pampas, Kansas). We'd be trading one bunch of numbskulls who spend their energy dollar bonanza on funding crazed fundamentalists for another, all too similar, bunch of numbskulls.

So fusion is still the only way to go: not only is it emission free, it's the method that pays the greatest proportion of its cost to smart city people, and the least to backwoods morons.

Re:Finally! (1)

dotwaffle (610149) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120994)

The Saudi's may be pissed, living in a desert and all, but think about it, genetically modify corn based plants to grow in a well-irrigated desert (and this is possible, things do grow in the desert) and suddenly the Middle East becomes a place to grow fuel - hey, it could even help African countries. Of course, the USA also has lots of wasted space... But for me as a Brit, with very low spare space, I'd be happy to buy African corn based fuel, in fact I'd probably prefer it.

Re:Finally! (3, Informative)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121092)

and using the desert as one big hydroponics setup would help global warming.

Don't only a huge carbon sink but also all that nasty water vapour from the ice caps melting and the sea levels rising would be a huge water sink also.

Australia could join in too.

Re:Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14121098)

All these altern-o-fuels may be neat but are they too little, too late [blogspot.com] ? I hope not. Foriegn oil supplies won't last forever, and ours have already peaked...

Re:Finally! (1)

ThereCanBeOnlyOne007 (930675) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121218)

Or do you mean Japaneese people can break the dependense.

key word is catalyst (5, Insightful)

ChrisGilliard (913445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120727)

with a much less expensive catalyst (between 10 and 50 times cheaper) than what is currently used.

Note: the catalyst is 10 - 50 times cheaper, not biodisel fuel itself, while the breakthrough is meaningful, the headline is misleading. I'd be curious to know what percentage of the total cost of producing biodisel is related to the cost of this catalyst.

Re:key word is catalyst (4, Insightful)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120761)

Still, this is an important development. If it is true and workable, most 3rd world countries will be able to "grow" a very essential component of fuel. Right now, there is no way these countries can avoid paying their hard earned dollars to the oil companies of the world, most of which are from the west.

Re:key word is catalyst (4, Insightful)

TheGavster (774657) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120767)

It should also give the third world a new market for their agricultural products; while we may make it a pain for people to sell us food, it's easy as pie to sell fuel over the border.

Re:key word is catalyst (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14120785)

Considering that we have more arable land than almost any country in the world, and that we actually pay some of our farmers not to farm (as well as dumping crops into the oceans), it would be logical that we would become the major biodiesel producer in the world. Yellow mustard and rapeseed don't need to be grown in the tropics. While biodiesel will be helpful for the world, it will not be a huge economic bonus to third world countries.

Re:key word is catalyst (5, Insightful)

j-cloth (862412) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120793)

Not just the 3rd world -- farmers in general. I ran screaming from the prairies because there are no jobs and no money there. More markets for farmers are a Good Thing.

Re:key word is catalyst (2, Interesting)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121169)

No jobs?

Far from it, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas all have very low unemployment rates and with the low cost of living it's much easier to own a home and live comfortably on the Great Plains than in the "successful" parts of the US.

South Dakota's rate right now is 4 percent, with urban areas in the Great Plains seeing unemployment rates as low as 1 percent at times.

I have a friend from High School in Sioux Falls South Dakota making 85K with a 2-year vo-tech degree right now, thats letting him build a 4,000 sq foot house. No income tax, low sales taxes.

2,500 sq feet in Rapid City/Black Hills can go for as little as 125K.

Re:key word is catalyst (2, Interesting)

ChrisGilliard (913445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121013)

While this is interesting as you've pointed out, I still think we ought to focus on Solar power in particular for third world nations. Solar is the real solution to the future energy production issues. I've found quotes for Solar power setups (including batteries for storage) for "large" houses that cost about $25,000. If you roll this into your home mortgage (assuming 5.8%), the extra cost per month is only about $120. This is probably a little bit higher than the electric bill, but it's at least in the ballpark for a large house. With some govt. subsidy and a continued drop in these prices, I really think it will soon be economically viable. This is really the way to go. As it is, it's much cheaper to do a solar setup than to pay for the whole grid infrustructure to be created for remote areas. This is why it's popoular in places like Africa that don't have well built out energy grids. Imagine if it the prices droped by 50% over the next ten years for this setup. Then it would really make sense to setup your own solar panels for energy. This would have dramatic effects on society. We could virtually eliminate most power plants including natural gas plants and nuclear. Their replacement would be an incredibly distributed grid of solar panels that can produce much more power than current forms of electricity generation. Solar power would only become more and more efficient and we'd have such an abundance of electricity for powering our dwellings that we could consider powering vehicles. This would require us to make more efficient cars that are lighter and have better batteries, but it's all possible and our dependance on foreign oil and polution would be gone. On top of that we will have tapped into an almost unlimited supply of energy that will never go away (as long as the Sun is out). We would also be energy self-reliant on an individual basis. The energy companies would have no power. We could trade energy amoungst ourselves. All we'd need is an energy broker, but their role would be limited to maintaining the grid and ensuring fair transactions occur between buyer and seller on the individual energy market.

Re:key word is catalyst (5, Insightful)

Tracy Reed (3563) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121127)

Biodiesal *IS* solar power. Where do you think the energy present in the plant matter comes from? Not only that but it is probably more efficient on a $/watt basis. I'm all for photovoltaics and stuff but electricity storage for vehicles is still a tricky problem whereas chemical storage of energy has worked great for many decades now.

Re:key word is catalyst (0, Flamebait)

ChrisGilliard (913445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121284)

Ok, Mr. Technical. If you want to get right down to it, Oil is Solar power as well because it came from the Sun and the Algea absorbed that energy and 'rotted' into Oil. You will probably point out that there are several other theories as to how this happened and that the one I mentioned is the wrong one, so incase you do I've mentioned that I'm aware some people think Oil came from dinosuars, etc.....In any case, if you want to be technical I should have said, photovoltaics instead of 'solar' power. So, congrats. The point is that same. That's the way to go long term.

Re:key word is catalyst (1)

iphayd (170761) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121243)

Of course if you look at many 3rd world countries, growing is itself a problem. Take a look at Malaysia and Indonesia. The palm oil that they produce is in many products at our grocery stores, causing economic growth and development. However, the plantations are replacing rain forest, which the Orangutan and Sumatran Tiger need to survive.

Re:key word is catalyst (1)

say (191220) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121278)

3rd world countries will be able to "grow" a very essential component of fuel.

What, you mean like [cia.gov] Nigeria, Angola, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Yemen, Belarus, Suriname, Nicaragua and Guatemala does today?

OK, so most poor countries (why do people still call them third world?) haven't got any oil. But most of the rich countries haven't got any either.

Re:key word is catalyst (-1, Offtopic)

heli0 (659560) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120772)

http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/Aug01/corn-ba sedethanol.hrs.html [cornell.edu]

Neither increases in government subsidies to corn-based ethanol fuel nor hikes in the price of petroleum can overcome what one Cornell University agricultural scientist calls a fundamental input-yield problem: It takes more energy to make ethanol from grain than the combustion of ethanol produces.

At a time when ethanol-gasoline mixtures (gasohol) are touted as the American answer to fossil fuel shortages by corn producers, food processors and some lawmakers, Cornell's David Pimentel takes a longer range view.

"Abusing our precious croplands to grow corn for an energy-inefficient process that yields low-grade automobile fuel amounts to unsustainable, subsidized food burning," says the Cornell professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Pimentel, who chaired a U.S. Department of Energy panel that investigated the energetics, economics and environmental aspects of ethanol production several years ago, subsequently conducted a detailed analysis of the corn-to-car fuel process. His findings will be published in September, 2001 in the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Physical Sciences and Technology.

Among his findings are:

o An acre of U.S. corn yields about 7,110 pounds of corn for processing into 328 gallons of ethanol. But planting, growing and harvesting that much corn requires about 140 gallons of fossil fuels and costs $347 per acre, according to Pimentel's analysis. Thus, even before corn is converted to ethanol, the feedstock costs $1.05 per gallon of ethanol.

o The energy economics get worse at the processing plants, where the grain is crushed and fermented. As many as three distillation steps are needed to separate the 8 percent ethanol from the 92 percent water. Additional treatment and energy are required to produce the 99.8 percent pure ethanol for mixing with gasoline. o Adding up the energy costs of corn production and its conversion to ethanol, 131,000 BTUs are needed to make 1 gallon of ethanol. One gallon of ethanol has an energy value of only 77,000 BTU. "Put another way," Pimentel says, "about 70 percent more energy is required to produce ethanol than the energy that actually is in ethanol. Every time you make 1 gallon of ethanol, there is a net energy loss of 54,000 BTU."

o Ethanol from corn costs about $1.74 per gallon to produce, compared with about 95 cents to produce a gallon of gasoline. "That helps explain why fossil fuels -- not ethanol -- are used to produce ethanol," Pimentel says. "The growers and processors can't afford to burn ethanol to make ethanol. U.S. drivers couldn't afford it, either, if it weren't for government subsidies to artificially lower the price."

o Most economic analyses of corn-to-ethanol production overlook the costs of environmental damages, which Pimentel says should add another 23 cents per gallon. "Corn production in the U.S. erodes soil about 12 times faster than the soil can be reformed, and irrigating corn mines groundwater 25 percent faster than the natural recharge rate of ground water. The environmental system in which corn is being produced is being rapidly degraded. Corn should not be considered a renewable resource for ethanol energy production, especially when human food is being converted into ethanol."

o The approximately $1 billion a year in current federal and state subsidies (mainly to large corporations) for ethanol production are not the only costs to consumers, the Cornell scientist observes. Subsidized corn results in higher prices for meat, milk and eggs because about 70 percent of corn grain is fed to livestock and poultry in the United States Increasing ethanol production would further inflate corn prices, Pimentel says, noting: "In addition to paying tax dollars for ethanol subsidies, consumers would be paying significantly higher food prices in the marketplace."

Re:key word is catalyst (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14120808)

about 70 percent of corn grain is fed to livestock and poultry in the United States Increasing ethanol production would further inflate corn prices

How much is paid to farmers NOT to grow ANYTHING? Is this more than what it would cost to grow corn for conversion into fuel?

MOD PARENT DOWN TO HELL (4, Informative)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120809)

This isnt about ethanol. This is about biodiesel.
Minimally modified vegetable oil.

PLEASE STICK your old propaganda shit (which you already had prepared, because it would have taken you longer to write that article than the story is online) and shove it up your ass.

Re:MOD PARENT DOWN TO HELL (1)

Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120860)

All biofuels are plagued by the same production inefficiencies, since photosynthesis itself is less than 1% efficient (Solar irradiance at a generous max of 1000W/M^2 would leave you needing a few dozen acres per tiny car). The macro implications of efficient conversion of used vegetable oil are irrelevant.

Re:MOD PARENT DOWN TO HELL (4, Insightful)

(negative video) (792072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121112)

All biofuels are plagued by the same production inefficiencies, since photosynthesis itself is less than 1% efficient (Solar irradiance at a generous max of 1000W/M^2 would leave you needing a few dozen acres per tiny car).
I thought photosynthesis was actually ~5% efficient. Anyway, assume 1.25% efficiency because much energy goes to tissues other than oil, 6 hours/day of sunlight, and a 180 day growing season. That's ~50 MJ/m^2/year of captured energy. A that car requires 37 kW (50 horsepower) for one hour a day needs ~50 GJ/year. Obviously you'd need 1000 m^2/car/year = 0.25 acres/car/year. Use a factor of four to account for various losses and that's 1 acre/car/year. Hardly dozens of acres per tiny car.

Can that be right? One acre is barely enough for a horse. Either I slipped a decimal point or horses are really inefficient.

The real problem with biofuels is not efficiency. It is chemical conversion. Getting the molecules into the proper shape at low cost will take a lot of clever chemistry that hasn't been done yet. The "breakthrough" under discussion is one piece of the puzzle.

Re:MOD PARENT DOWN TO HELL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14121141)

photosynthesis itself is less than 1% efficient

In what sense? That is captures only 1% of the energy of the light that hits it? Well, if we could actually capture 1% of the solar energy hitting the earth we wouldn't need anything else.

Re:MOD PARENT DOWN TO HELL (1)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120925)

Well....

First, I understand that there have been some pretty good breakthroughs in ethanol production as well (though truth be told, the yeast take their share of the energy with them). But biodiesel is more efficient.

What would be best would be taking the waste from making biodiesel and using it to make ethanol. In this way your energy cost is spread across the generation of two energy products with less waste.

The ideal energy economy is where we are using waste to generate our energy as much as possible. This may not entirely allow us to kick the habbit wrt foreign oil, but it would help a great deal and allow us to be less polluting on the whole as well :-)

Re:key word is catalyst (4, Informative)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120837)

Dude, that's from 2001. It's been 4 years and improvements have been made. Plus he's talking about corn, not rape seed (Canola) or mustard seed or soybeans or cotton seed where the yields are much better for biodiesel than for ethanol (which isn't what this is talking about anyways).

Repeat after me: "Ethanol is not biodiesel" "Ethanol is not biodiesel" "Ethanol is not biodiesel"

This post is pure FUD and the guys study was probably financed by entrenched petroleum industry advocates anyways....

Re:key word is catalyst (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14120867)

While your circular logic is sound, the economics is not why using ethanol in your gasoline car sucks. There are 2 problems.

Energy density. Ethanol in a combustion chamber makes way way less power than gasoline. When a gas station "dilutes" the gas with ethanol, your miles per gallon goes down because it takes more fuel to push you a mile. Notice how ethanol gas stations charge the same price as those who don't sell ethanol blends? They are literally laughing all the way to the bank.

Damage to your car. Ethanol is wet! Lots of water that way. Ethanol also tends to form a sludge in the bottom of your tank, god forbid you should run your tank below 1/8 and suck all that shit up. Bye bye fuel pump, bye bye fuel filter, whoops clogged injectors. Did I mention ethanol is bad for all the seals in your fuel system? Swollen seals, worn o rings, cars running on ethanol blends have much higher repair costs than "normal" gas.

Want to research fuels more? Google for acetone in gas, and why petroleum companies are not doing it.

It's all about stealing your money through the nozzle of a gas pump.

Human energy use linked to global warming (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120838)

If indeed the industrial revolution is the cause of global warming and this really began in the 1800's, then we better worry about what we are going to do that does not spew carbon into the atmosphere if we are going to target a one-world, closed-system ecology.

The alternative is to plan on getting into space and not being limited to the resources on good old planet Earth. Unfortunately, such investments seem to be taking a back seat to things that have a more immediate payback, like making sure everyone can have an Xbox 360 for Christmas.

We have a clear choice and if we don't choose soon, the choice will be made for us. Resource consumption is either a way of life or not. Your average family in 800 AD used a lot less resources than just about anyone does today. The choice is to figure out how not to make this a problem or to roll with it and live like they did in 800 AD.

Sure, there is a third way - pretend that Kyoto will solve things and that such halfway measures are going to do something useful. If this really started in 1800 and not 1980, then reducing emissions to 1990 levels isn't even a beginning, its a joke.

The next really, really important question is how many humans can the Earth support with 800 AD levels of technology and energy use. If you don't like those answers either, I suggest you wake up and figure out what the real alternatives are. Doing nothing will absolutely result in your descendents living like their distance ancestors did.

Re:Human energy use linked to global warming (4, Insightful)

sam_handelman (519767) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121017)

Evidently you skipped class when they covered photosynthesis.

All that reduced carbon in the plant-oils COMES FROM CARBON DIOXIDE IN THE ATMOSPHERE.

Thus, biodiesel is sustainable.

The *real question* is, how much energy from fertilizer does it take to make this biodiesel? I'd understood that to be the big expense (along with the water,) and not the processing, but I could be mistaken.

Re:key word is catalyst (1)

KuRa_Scvls (932317) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121122)

just remember that vegetable oils cost more than the diesel oil itself,
and that the catalyst was already expensive, even though discounted

Re:key word is catalyst (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14121124)

I'm not an expert, but last I checked this is the only thing you actually need to purchase. (besides vats and such, which are one-time costs and not that expensive) The vegetable oil itself is (as most of you are probably aware) freely available behind your local donut-shop or burger-joint.

why does this really matter? (1)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121271)

Catalysts are not consumed in production (by definition). So, it's just a startup cost, not a production cost.

Personally, I'm a little suspicious as to whether this is truly a catalyst or a consumeable.

wow (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14120729)

you're incredibly slow. the news has been out for a while.

Lye = expensive? (4, Insightful)

drkfce (932602) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120733)

Even though it is a good idea to reduce costs whenever possible, but from what I have seen, even when using lye (which is basic, not acidic), it is about 70 cents cheaper than regular fuel. Biodiesel = Used vegtable oil + lye + methanol + mixture motor, containers and filters.

Biodiesel more at the pump? (5, Interesting)

Darlantan (130471) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120734)

Err, this seems backwards to me. Everytime I've seen bio available, it's been below standard diesel prices. Perhaps it's just a regional thing where I'm at, but I've been under the impression that the real problem with biodiesel was A) older fuel lines may be degraded more quickly by biodiesel, and B) producing enough to fuel the world's fuel needs was a big issue.

Of course, I'm no biodiesel guru, but it is of some interest to me -- I drive an older diesel (which I plan on converting to run on SVO, as soon as I get the facilities to make this feasible.)

Bottlenecks (5, Informative)

pavon (30274) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120861)

In many places biodiesel has been more expensive than regular deisel, until the recent jump in oil prices. In addition, there have been a couple of recent subsidies that have brought the price of biodiesel down at the pump. It wasn't too long ago when biodiesel was 2x the price per gallon, and not everyone has caught up to the fact that this has changed. Regardless any decrease in cost is still a great thing.

For biodiesel created with conventional crops the bottleneck is like you said, that there isn't enough enough aritable land on the planet to create as much biodiesel as we currently use in gasoline and diesel. Algae based biodiesel solves this problem but is significantly more expensive to produce than convientional biodiesel last time I checked. Honestly though, I haven't heard about any new research in that field since the DOE Algae program was put to an end back on Clinton's watch.

In reality there is no one solution to the problem. The solution will be a combination of an increase in biofuels, more efficient cars, more public transportation that runs off the grid, and even then transportation will likely be more expensive than we have become occustomed to transportation.

Re:Biodiesel more at the pump? (1, Informative)

Belseth (835595) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120871)

As I rememeber it's vegitable oil that doesn't burn as cleanly in older diesels. Biodiesel is fine in any diesel engine. There's a lot of confusion over what the defination of biodiesel is. Technically biodiesel is a blend of tradtional diesel and vegitable oil that burns cleaner than diesel by itself and if you have a free or cheap source of vegitable oil, used generally, it can be cheaper. Most real fanatics run the car briefly on biodiesel when they start the car then once it's warm they switch over to pure vegitable oil. The reason being when the engine is cold pure vegitable oil doesn't burn cleanly and will build up deposits fast. Starting the car with biodiesel then switching avoids this problem and produces very little polution at the start up, none of coarse once you switch to vegitable oil. Older diesels don't burn pure vegitable oil thoroughly so the engine would need regular service. Newer cars don't have this problem and can run indefinately on vegitable oil. Vegitable oil has a higher lubrication factor so they engine will infact last longer running it. The new process is for blending vegitable oil with diesel to make biodiesel. It's potentially huge becuase oil prices are going up and biodiesel is only slightly more expensive. It may soon actually be cheaper than diesel, this new process could help make that possible. Biodiesel won't solve all the fuel problems but it's a step in the right direction.

Re:Biodiesel more at the pump? (5, Informative)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120954)

Technically biodiesel is a blend of tradtional diesel and vegitable oil that burns cleaner than diesel by itself and if you have a free or cheap source of vegitable oil, used generally, it can be cheaper.

Er, no. Biodiesel is a fuel produced from vegetable oil, it is not vegetable oil. The article is about a cataylst to improve the process of vegetable oil to biodiesel.

Some people have done conversion work to run diesel engines on vegetable oil [greasecar.com] . That's way cool. But that's not biodiesel.

Blends of biodiesel and tradtional petroleum diesel fuel are popular. That doesn't mean biodiesel is a blend.

Re:Biodiesel more at the pump? (2, Funny)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121198)

I propose that "vegitable" be the new "rediculous".

You heard it here first. 1/2 ;-)

Re:Biodiesel more at the pump? (1)

lousyd (459028) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121044)

Everytime I've seen bio available, it's been below standard diesel prices.

I just fueled up three hours ago. Regular diesel was $2.79 a gallon; biodiesel was $3.06 a gallon. But anyway, even if biodiesel was half the price of regular diesel, wouldn't you want it cheaper still?

Cheap Fuel (3, Interesting)

Thunderstruck (210399) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120737)

I was unable to tell from TFA, though I did not read it closely, whether this will make soy biodiesel as cheap or cheaper than standard diesel is now.

Not that it matters, I just bought a nice, fuel efficient gasoline powered car... It should be wearing out about the time the patent expires on this new process.

Legacy support (1)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121133)

I think that biodiesel is great in terms of support for legacy internal combustion engines, but I suspect that the cars of the future will be moving toward electric technology more and more as time goes on. The two main forms that I can see this taking now are:

1) Hybrid engines and
2) Fuel cell engines.

The main reason is that electric cars are just more energy efficient. You can do things with them to increase that efficiency that you just can't (easily) do with internal combustion engines. Things like regenerative braking.

Biodiesel is great, but I don't see it as anything more than a solution for legacy support.

Vegetable fuel (4, Insightful)

Kelson (129150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120738)

This reminds me of an article I read a few months ago about using corn to produce ethanol on a large scale as a renewable resource. Follow-up articles pointed out that corn (maize, specifically) isn't a particularly efficient crop, which meant that the environmental impact of drilling for oil and depleting oil reserves was just being shifted to depleting topsoil. Very much a "no free lunch" reaction.

If this biodiesel process can be applied to enough different types of plants, then it should be possible to pick and choose crops based on what does well in a given area -- after all, we don't have to worry about market pressures and what people want to eat, it's just going to be converted into fuel -- which should minimize the effects of choosing hihg-impact crops.

Re:Vegetable fuel (4, Insightful)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120811)

Nobody except corn farmers has ever proposed using corn ethanol as a fuel on a meaningful scale. That is just a farming subsidy scam and a straw man used by confused or malevolent opponents of ecologically sound fuels, or those with political agendas in line with the fossil fuel industry.

Bioethanol is ethanol made from cellulose feedstocks. These should, in practice, be much lower in terms of energy input required than corn or similar crops used for human consumption. The economics of bioethanol produced by SSF (simultaneous sacharination and fermentation) bears almost nothing in common with corn ethanol.

Furthermore, if you get rid of farm subsidies from the equations, then the market should take care of making sure energy costs are fully reflected in all prices. Carbon impact is another story, but shouldn't be too hard to measure (and probably is closely correlated with the portion of costs attributable to energy use).

As for biodiesel - I am under the impression that the major costs are associated with the feedstock itself, not with the acid used in processing. From memory, I think that the feedstock cost is responsible for at least 60-70% of the final cost of biodiesel, so I wouldn't expect a 10x reduction in acid costs to save more than a few percent in total cost. Genetically engineered bacteria seem to provide the most reasonable way to make an oil feedstock for bioethanol production efficiently. The reason that some people think biodiesel is cheaper than diesel is that in Europe they get huge tax breaks on biodiesel, so they are comparing apples to oranges.

Bioethanol is by far the most promising alternative fuel available today, with attractive envrionmental impact and economic characteristics, and only modest incremental cost to make Flexible Fuel Vehicle engines that can burn either ethanol or gasoline. It's too bad there is zero governmental support for this here in the US. We could greatly reduce our foreign oil dependence within 5-10 years with just a bit of political willpower.

not a catalyst (4, Insightful)

fuck_this_shit (727749) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120739)

catalysts? acids? expensive? the definition of a catalyst is that they do not get transformed in an reaction but simply speed it up. In this case it rather sounds as if the acids are a simple consumed reactant.

Re:not a catalyst (5, Insightful)

wfberg (24378) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120756)

catalysts? acids? expensive? the definition of a catalyst is that they do not get transformed in an reaction but simply speed it up. In this case it rather sounds as if the acids are a simple consumed reactant.

A catalyst not being used up is all good and well, but it doesn't do you very much good in the cheap department if you can't easily get that catalyst to stay where the reaction is taking place; i.e. if there's no way to get the catalyst out of the resultant biodiesel and into a fresh batch of vegetable oil, it's not getting consumed, but it's getting siphoned off (via the endproduct) none the less.

Re:not a catalyst (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14120821)

the NAOH doesn't end up in the fuel, the fuel is typically washed to bring it down to a more neutral pH and the methanol can be recovered by other means

Re:not a catalyst (1)

phatslug (878736) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120960)

The NaOH is still a reactant with the fatty acid, it's not simply increasing the rater of fatty acid to ester conversion. I assume the OH from the sodium hydroxide is reacting with the carboxy functional group of the fatty acid.

Recyclable solid acid an old concept (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14120741)

A recyclable solid acid was developed decades ago, but no one has been high enough to be willing to drink the piss, despite how much window pane they've been given.

Need money?!? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14120744)

Click here Your link: http://www.cashspace.com/signup.asp?refID=HaRRiKiR i [cashspace.com] and register, easy way to get money!!!!

Well (5, Interesting)

hug_the_penguin (933796) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120745)

It isn't going to solve the world's dependence on oil overnight, but it's perhaps a step forward.

The next problem will be a shortage of arable land due to land used to produce the vegetables that are then going to become diesel. This could solve one problem and lead straight into another

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14120835)

The next problem will be a shortage of arable land due to land used to produce the vegetables that are then going to become diesel. This could solve one problem and lead straight into another

Like what? There is a lot of arable land which isn't used to produce anything, either because it's not suitable for creating a food crop that's viable to the region, or because of a combination of not being worth it, ontop of government regulation such as the Japanese rice farming industry. Taking into account that a lot of the advanced nations have a rising unemployment rate, and a lot of arable land that's wasting right now, this could actually be an unexpected solution to some other problems.

That said, one great thing about bio-diesel is that it doesn't require fresh veggie oil. The thing I like about it is that it can be first used to fry your mickey-D fries, and THEN converted to diesel fuel. You tend to lose the cost benefit when using fresh oil as an ingredient, but being able to use used oil, the economics start making more sense.

Remember, with dino-diesel you need to drill far away (well, far away in the case of places like Japan), transport, refine, transport again... I tend to think the key is small batch local production. Cut out a lot of the transportation and large scale stocking issues, and drive down the cost.

That said... dino-diesel and all other fuels are suspiciously cheap IMHSHO. I understand the production costs for bio-diesel, and they're pretty darn cheap as is. Still, you can't compete with dino-diesel if the same taxes were applied. Which is odd. After all that transportation etc., how come dino-diesel is cheaper than bio-diesel?? Doesn't make enough sense.

Re:Well (1)

Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120916)

It isn't going to solve the world's dependence on oil overnight, but it's perhaps a step forward.

No it isn't ... biofuels will always have a negative production efficiency ratio because photosynthesis is less than 1% efficient. There is simply no "miracle" solution for replacing the effort that mother nature has put into producing fossil fuels over the last 500 of million years (same for those in the ambiotic camp).

Re:Well (1)

hug_the_penguin (933796) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120948)

The argument is to whether this matters given that it isn't costing us to have use of the sun. Yes, it's inefficient, but it's a damnsight easier than waiting 10 million years (when we have an estimated 10 years of fossil fuels left)...

Re:Well (1)

chronicon (625367) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121257)

It isn't going to solve the world's dependence on oil overnight, but it's perhaps a step forward.

You are right, it is not and I seriously doubt it ever will. It just takes too much land/vehicle to be practical. Some parties [blogspot.com] indicate that this issue of oil dependence has already gone beyond critical mass (meaning supplies have peaked and will slowly not be able to meet demand in the near future causing all kinds of economic and social griefs--neither of which possibilites I had ever considered possible in my lifetime). It has even grabbed the attenion of some of the folks in the House of Representatives [globalpublicmedia.com] for whatever good that will do...

The suggestions that I have read repeatedly is that we need to put the energy and effort into renewable energy sources on the scale of the man-to-the-moon effort. Critical. It has been stated that President Bush was very much interested [fromthewilderness.com] in this situation prior to 9/11 and the events that have transpired. Needless to say, he's been somewhat sidetracked...

Gimme nuclear fusion and better batteries!

In other news... (4, Informative)

Kohath (38547) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120747)

Green fuel plan 'will destroy rainforests' [telegraph.co.uk]

Forests paying the price for biofuels [newscientist.com]

Careful what you wish for.

Re:In other news... (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120807)

In Brazil..... where you have to de-forest to plant anything else.

Re:In other news... (1)

toetagger1 (795806) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120984)

And how many trees die every year of acid rain (which the article mentions as being greatly reduced by this product)?

But more importantly, if this product has a chance to avoids a war over oil, its worth a lot more than more acres of land being used. And as we make progress in agricultural technologies (and share that technology with the rest of the world), we may not even need more than the currently existing farmland to supplement 20% of the worlds disel with biodisel.

Farmland war? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121301)

But more importantly, if this product has a chance to avoids a war over oil, its worth a lot more than more acres of land being used.

So far we've seen World War I (Ententes vs Centrals), then World War II (Allies vs Axis), then World War III (West vs Soviet Bloc), and now World War IV (West vs terrorist states). Will World War V be fought over farmland?

Everone wins! (4, Insightful)

ThatGeek (874983) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120755)

If I were from one of those square-type states with lots of farms, I would be on this in a second. It would be the holy grail for farmers: a way to link national security with farm supports.

If the government could help farmers grow soybeans and in return reduce dependence on foreign oil, both left and right wingers would be happy. Imagine that! Good for security, good for American jobs, good for the environment, and even good for business (cars would need some retooling).

Where do I sign up? Oh, it's one of those "This technology will be really cool when it becomes available in 10-15 years" stories, huh?

Re:Everone wins! (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121213)

This has been something that's been tried for about 30 years now in the States. By politicans Republican and Democrat it's looked down upon as Pork Barrel politics. Everyone from the Dakotas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Minnesota, and anywhere else with soy and corn production are in favor of it, everyone in the House and Senate from all the other states hate it.

It's been in the farm and energy bills pretty much constantly since the mid 70s, but it's not popular.

Example of a Republican take on it
"Senator Jim Talent, the Missouri Republican, is one of the senators we admire most. That's why we're saddened to see him backing a costly and fruitless giveaway to special interests. Yesterday, Talent proposed -- and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources passed -- an amendment to the Senate energy bill that would mandate eight billion gallons per year in ethanol production. That puts Talent -- at least on this issue -- in the company of ex-Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, who got a five-billion-gallon mandate in last year's bill."

http://www.nationalreview.com/editorial/editors200 505260854.asp [nationalreview.com]

SVO (4, Informative)

evenprime (324363) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120759)

You still have to play with nasty chemicals when you convert veggie oil to biodiesel. If you are dead set on producing huge amounts of particulate emmisions [epa.gov] (i.e. running a diesel) it might be better to use one of the conversion kits and run straight veggie oil.

Don't mod me into oblivion for pointing out a negative to biodiesel. I know about the benefits: http://www.thecarconnection.com/Auto_News/Green_Ma chines/Diesels_Clean_Green_Illegal.S196.A3569.html [thecarconnection.com]

Re:SVO (1)

kesuki (321456) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121280)

Well, as you shouldn't be too worried, if biodiesel becomes extremely widespread, one can use a catalytic converter -- because biodiesel contains no sulphur or other chemicals to 'destroy' the converter a world where only biodiesel is produced would be one where diesel vehicles came with emision reducing catalytic converters.

this is definitely a very good piece of news though :) breakthroughs like this one improve the economic outlook of growing algae and converting it to biodiesel for 'profit' which means someone who had the vision and the desire to try and find the money to start such a business might have a much more impressive future outlook for profitability.

Or you could just use straight vegetable oil... (2, Insightful)

httpamphibio.us (579491) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120768)

I don't understand what the big fuss about biodiesel is... almost all diesel vehicles can be cheaply and quickly converted to use straight vegetable oil as fuel. Granted, you have to start and end on diesel/biodiesel to warm up the vegetable oil. Used vegetable oil can be found for free at most restaurants and the process of filtering it to be used as fuel is relatively painless. Instead of converting masses of perfectly useable vegetable oil to another form, why not just use it as is?

Oh... yeah, that's right... if people pushed the use of straight vegetable oil then they probably couldn't justify selling biodiesel for $4-$6 a gallon.

Re:Or you could just use straight vegetable oil... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14120896)

I don't understand what the big fuss about biodiesel is... almost all diesel vehicles can be cheaply and quickly converted to use straight vegetable oil as fuel.

Since when was $800~ (without labor) cheap? SVO is a great idea if it flies. But there are more issues with SVO than bio-diesel, one of them being the additional parts required.

Granted, you have to start and end on diesel/biodiesel to warm up the vegetable oil.

This is part of the problem. Burning dino-diesel isn't that big of a deal to me, since it's very minimal, and clean diesel CAN be made. (Get rid of the sulfur additives!!) However, from a user perspective, it requires two different tanks, re-fueling two different fuels, and, oops, I just dumped SVO into the dino tank... (Something that will likely happen if you need to fuel up on two different fuels at the same time.)

Used vegetable oil can be found for free at most restaurants and the process of filtering it to be used as fuel is relatively painless. Instead of converting masses of perfectly useable vegetable oil to another form, why not just use it as is?

Bio-diesel can be made using used veggie oil too, and that's the way it should be. Not all fuel can be supplied that way, but why not use what we've got? Once that's done, no additional parts will be needed for diesel engines. They'll work as is.

Oh... yeah, that's right... if people pushed the use of straight vegetable oil then they probably couldn't justify selling biodiesel for $4-$6 a gallon.

The cost of bio-diesel shouldn't be $4-$6/gallon. It should be closer to $1-$2/gallon, but the economics don't add up right now mostly because of a lack of demand and support. That said, if you think $1-$2/gallon is too expensive, maybe you've been a bit spoiled... I live in Japan and pay $5/gallon for gassoline right now. Diesel is about $4/gallon right now, but in Tokyo it's been pretty much all but banned.

Anyhow, power to you if you can get your car running on SVO. (Do it right though, or you'll kill your engine!) The more people are willing to pay the $800+ to convert to SVO the better, and the more cheap (pre-filtered) used SVO available on the market the better. It's not viable just yet though, so until it is, I'll be following the bio diesel movement... which, for the most part, seems to be a battle with politicians rather than a battle with technology...

why is this a breakthrough (2, Interesting)

SlashSquatch (928150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120780)

It's a breakthrough because the new catalyst is a more immediate part of the the carbon cycle than petro chemical catalysts.

I have an SVO Blazer. It's a real pain in the ass getting that grease out of dumpsters. I worry about the health factor. It seemed like I was getting sick more often when I was doing it. My wife made fun of me for a year. I fought a defective system and had lots of problems. Yeah I don't listen to naysayers and neither should you. I got 15k mi. doing it, then I ran out of time for that project. If I did it again I'd start a co-op. Biodiesel looks real nice now. Diesel engines are more efficient than gas and longer lasting. Given the amount of agriculture America is capable of, I find it hard to believe we can't supplement our diesel diet with veggies.

Re:why is this a breakthrough (2, Interesting)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120900)

It's a real pain in the ass getting that grease out of dumpsters...

When I was looking at a grease car kit I discovered recycled vegetable oil at a restaurant supply house for $1.20/gallon. My plan was to buy it in 55 gallon drums, which they'd deliver free.

Just wondered if there was a reason recycled oil wouldn't work? Because dumpster diving in grease barrels for waste oil doesn't really appeal to me either.

I'm happy to pay $1.20/gallon for someone else to handle the collection and filtering.

Re:why is this a breakthrough (1)

MrSnivvel (210105) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121136)

Just wondered if there was a reason recycled oil wouldn't work?

It will work, you just have to do extra work to get out the "foriegn" matter and take into consideration the variations in water content from batch to batch.

Re:why is this a breakthrough (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121293)

Who do they usually sell the recycled oil to? Surely it can't be re-used as cooking oil.

I had a friend that was really into the veggie oil thing. Aparantly there are clubs around with like minded people who will help you do the conversion and set you up with an oil supply. $1.20 is nice, but the local burger factory might let you have it for free if it means they don't have to pay to get rid of it.

also, apparantly you car will perpetually smell like fast food, so don't do the conversion until after you've found a mate and locked the golden shackles of matrimony.

Man, I really hope so... (1)

emagery (914122) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120796)

It would be really nice to find some alternatives... but I have to wonder if this, like so many other 'efficiency' discoveries and antioil research, will 'disappear' too. Really...

Willie's Biodiesel (1)

unihedron (579453) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120803)

Get your fill here [wnbiodiesel.com] .

Nooo...... (0, Offtopic)

gmby (205626) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120810)

Don't listen to them!

Thier just trying to get you to put sugar in your tank!

That's not the problem. (4, Interesting)

Jaywalk (94910) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120814)

The problem with biodiesel isn't that it's too expensive to produce. The problem is that there simply isn't enough oil to replace significant amounts of fossil fuel. And there is the issue of what happens to the price of food oil if too much vegetable oil is converted to fuel usage. According to this study [unh.edu] by the University of New Hampshire, it is possible to make the necessary oil using oily varieties of algae which can be produced on non-arable land.

Making soybean biodiesel cheaper won't solve the problem because the limited supply will only meet so much of the required energy needs. It might even cause more problems by creating economic pressure to convert food oils into fuels.

Please enlighten me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14120824)

I understand that you can get more efficiency out of diesel than gasoline (55mpg diesel cars have been around for ever) but the particulate emissions from diesel are much worse than from gasoline. Is biodiesel any better in this regard? Or is the advantage just that you don't need to invade Iraq to get it?

Recycled Oil? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14120847)

Would you like Fries with your recycled oil?

Or better yet, upgrade your fries with your Bio Diesel at the same time for only $.39 more.

Not Invented Here (4, Interesting)

tacocat (527354) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120850)

Since this is an accomplishment not by American Industry and is contrary to the current powerbrokers of Dino-fuels it won't mean shit in America.

2005: law is passed giving a tax credit for bio-diesel mixes. But this eliminates all B-100 biodesiel because it's not a mix. Tax rebates are not made available to the consumer.

2006: law goes into effect which raises the bar on small diesel engine emissions (commercial vehicles excluded) making it impossible to sell a new diesel car in the United States because the fuel used in the Unites States is too dirty to pass the emissions test. It is not the engine, it is the fuel that fails the test. There are no American automotive manufacturers selling a diesel engine in the United States.

2007: law is supposed to go into effect to introduce low sulphur dino-diesel which should permit diesel sales to go into effect. I'm a little suspicious that this law isn't currently under assault. But we won't know for another year.

Go search the internet. The technology for production of bio-diesel and the studies identifying the environmental benefits have been in publication, on the internet of all places, since 1998. And what has been done about it?

Comparable to E85? (2, Interesting)

jzarling (600712) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120852)

How does this process, and biodesiel, compare to E85 in terms of production costs, energy density, and impact on food supply?

Given that the H2O powered fuel cell is the holygrail of power systems, wasn't there a push awhile back to use Ethanol and its easy to break hydrogen bonds as the "fuel" for the fuel cell?

Re:Comparable to E85? (1)

roesti (531884) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121111)

A couple of things.

Firstly, for the purposes of combustion, biodiesel is a lot more like petrodiesel than ethanol is like unleaded petrol. It takes a lot of work to convert a petrol-powered car to run on ethanol without long-term engine damage, whereas diesel-powered cars can run on any mix of biodiesel and petrodiesel, which is why I prefer the biodiesel path to the bioethanol one.

(As an aside: here in Australia, diesel-powered small cars are quite new and are all pretty expensive. For the most part, "diesel-powered vehicle" means "truck".)

Secondly, bioethanol and biodiesel will probably have similar environmental impacts, if grown the same way and for the same energy return. Modern studies have put the respective EROEIs for both bioethanol and biodiesel well above 1.0, depending on the crop: IIRC, sugar beet is better for ethanol than sugar cane (EROEI of bioethanol from sugar beet is about 1.8), and soy beans are better for making biodiesel than corn. The good news is that all of these crops are edible, so you can make fuel from some and food from the rest, in whatever proportion is forecast to be required.

Thirdly, using water as a fuel is not "the holygrail of power systems". Water can hold a lot of energy, but it is not a fuel. You may be thinking of hydrogen power, but again, hydrogen isn't a fuel either. Whether you electrolyse water, or whether you react something with ethanol (I've heard of making hydrogen this way, but I don't know the details), it takes more energy to get the hydrogen out than you would get by burning the resulting hydrogen. Like water, it makes a good energy carrier, but it is not an energy source.

If you want to find out more about bioalcohols as fuels, you should try to find out how Brazil have fared. Every new petrol-powered car sold in Brazil must run on at least 22% ethanol - this has been the law for many years - and many cars run on straight alcohol. They're also ramping up their production of biofuel-capable crops, which will probably scare the living daylights out of countries like mine that are dragging their feet on biofuels.

One Problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14120854)

Creating biodiesel fuel uses just as much energy as it saves.

Waste oil (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14120922)

I've heard that assuming you can get your hands on waste oils (such as used vegetable oils) then biodiesel is pretty cheap to manufacture. The problem is, we just don't have enough waste oil to make a dent in our reliance on foreign oil.

Well, I've singlehandedly come up with a solution to this problem. Legislation must be put in place that requires all foodstuffs consumed in the United States to be fried. Meats, breads, veggies - it all needs to be fried. Once all food is fried, there will be plenty of waste oil to go around.

Are you doing your part? Step away from the grill - it's the law.

Usage (0, Redundant)

future assassin (639396) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120931)

I have a customer that shops at my store and he makes his own bio diesel at home in his garage which he uses to power his gererators.

What about human fat ? (0, Redundant)

middlemen (765373) | more than 8 years ago | (#14120990)

Is anyone doing research on using human fat as fuel ?
Considering that America has a huge population that is obese, if government funded liposuction could lead to cheap fuel production, that would be like icing on the cake.
1. Don't exercise
2. Put on weight by eating a lot
3. Convert body fat to fuel by liposuction and other chemical processes
4. ????
5. Profit

A few more details, re: homebrewing etc. (4, Informative)

wherley (42799) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121025)

The acid catalyst they are talking about replacing is liquid Sulphuric Acid. Most homebrewers of biodiesel, like those using an "open source" Appleseed type reactor, are not using both an acid and base catalyst, only the base being Potassium Hydroxide or Sodium Hydroxide (along with Methanol or Ethanol).
With higher Free Fatty Acid feedstock, such as really used grease, the acid cataylst helps convert those FFAs. You can read a little more on the chemistry of
the news item here:
http://www.greencarcongress.com/2005/11/inexpensiv e_eff.html [greencarcongress.com]
Nature abstract:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd= Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=1628102 6&query_hl=3 [nih.gov]
Another abstract:
http://www.researchsea.com/html/article.php/aid/34 0/cid/2/research/green_chemistry__efficient_cataly st_for_making__biodiesel_.html>

Seems this process is five times more reactive than other solid catalysts, but still 50% that of the liquid acid - however sepearation afterward would be much
easier.

But the catalyst is ALREADY cheap... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14121059)

I thought the catalyst for making biodiesel was lye (sodium hydroxide), which is already quite cheap. Cheaper than sugar, I bet.

And someone got flamed for ranting about ethanol, but that's the other main ingredient. IIRC, transesterification [google.com] goes like this:

Lye + ethanol = sodium ethoxide (catalyst)

Ethoxide + fat = glycerol + lye + ethyl ester of fatty acids (i.e. biodiesel)

overheard conversation (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121091)

As recently overheard between two acids:

"Hey fatty, don't eat that! Biodiesel Is People!"

Re:overheard conversation (1)

chronicon (625367) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121171)

Hey! I need that soylent green for my car you insensitive clods!

Between 10 and 50 times cheaper? (0, Troll)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121140)

Wow! So if it used to cost 1$ it now costs -9$ to -49$? I would like 10 million units please, send the money to Mr. B.Admath!

Tokyo Institute of Tech (3, Funny)

Wingie (554272) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121156)

Should we really be trusting the research of someone from a place called TIT?

Artificial Photosynthesis? (1)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121179)

Has anyone ever looked at what would be the *real* solution, which would be reverse-engineering how these plants take in Sun + Co2 + minerals, and produce the oil?

If this process could be reproduced in a lab, and then commercialized, maybe you'd be abl to generate lots of biodeisel without having to grow and harvest acres upon acres of land. If you do the math (lost trees, tractor fuel, time to harvest) many feel that biodeisel en-masse is actually more harmful to the planet than it is beneficial.

But if biodeisel could be produced atrificially, without requiring fields of soy...

Re:Artificial Photosynthesis? (2, Informative)

arodland (127775) | more than 8 years ago | (#14121274)

We are, generally speaking, horribly bad at that sort of thing. Building up any sort of relatively big molecule is a matter of trial and error and error. And even when we do figure it out, it's usually less efficient than letting some plants or bacteria do it for us.

Re:Artificial Photosynthesis? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14121276)

This is a really cool insight. Think about this, plants are pretty effective converters, and really don't require lots to produce the oil we want. The hemp plant is a particullarly good producer of plant oil and was what Henry Ford planned to run his vehicles on.

But more to the point. Think about restating the question... how do I keep filling up all these cars and trucks with liquid fuel? Now, if you were a business trying to make the most effecient use of limited resources, as opposed to an oil/car company trying to sell as much dependance as you could. You might come to the conclusion that having all these cars around, and trying to fill them up every couple of days with 20 gallons of fuel may not be the best use of a limited resource... don't even get me started on trucking most food 1500 miles by truck!! Eat something out the backyard for Pete's sake.

Summary: The problem you are trying to fix with biofuels is a lossing proposition. Find another way or reality is going to kick your ass.

Damn, my font sucks.... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14121295)

For a second, I thought the i was an l, and it was talking about something along the lines of "blooddiesel"...... I can't even begin to say where my thoughts were going with that one.....
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