Chicken fat may signal end of future clean energy woes

December 23rd, 2007 - 6:16 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Dec 23 (ANI): Scientists at the University of Arkansas have signalled the end of future clean energy woes by exploring supercritical methanol as a method of converting chicken fat into biodiesel fuel.

The researchers say that the findings may develop commercially viable fuel out of plentiful, accessible and low-cost feedstocks and other agricultural by-products.

R.E. Babcock, professor of chemical engineering said that the findings would lead the energy producers to think on combining petroleum-based diesel with a biodiesel product.

Major oil companies are already examining biodiesel as an alternative to petroleum, he said

With the current price of petroleum diesel and the results of this project and others, I think energy producers will think even more seriously about combining petroleum-based diesel with a biodiesel product made out of crude and inexpensive feedstocks, he added.

The study led by Babcock deliberated low-grade chicken fat and tall oil fatty acid to a chemical process known as supercritical methanol treatment.

Supercritical methanol treatment dissolves and causes a reaction between components of a product in this case, chicken fat and tall oil by subjecting the product to high temperature and pressure.

The substances became supercritical when they wetre heated and pressurized to a critical point, the highest temperature and pressure at which the substance can exist in equilibrium as a vapor and liquid.

The findings revealed that chicken fat and tall oil treated with supercritical methanol produced biodiesel yields in excess of 89 and 94 percent, respectively. With chicken fat, maximum yield reached at 325 degrees Celsius and a 40-to-1 molar ratio, which refers to the amount of methanol applied.

The supercritical method hit the free fatty-acid problem head on, Babcock said. Because it dissolves the feed material and eliminates the need for the base catalyst, we now do not have the problems with soap formation and loss of yield. The supercritical method actually prefers free fatty acid feedstocks, he further said.

According to Brent Schulte, a chemical-engineering graduate student in the universitys College of Engineering who conducted the research said Biodiesel provides an effective, sustainable-use fuel with many desirable properties

In addition to being a renewable, biodegradable and carbon-neutral fuel source, it can be formed in a matter of months from feedstocks produced locally, which promotes a more sustainable energy infrastructure. It also decreases dependence on foreign oil and creates new labor and market opportunities for domestic crops, said Schulte

Biodiesel is a nonpetroleum-based alternative diesel fuel that consists of alkyl esters derived from renewable feedstocks such as plant oils or animal fats. The fuel is made by converting these oils and fats into what are known as fatty acid alkyl esters. (ANI)

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