P07421: Sustainable Technologies for the RIT Campus - Phase I

Bio Diesel Information

Table of Contents


The biodiesel concept was designed to reuse the waste vegetable oil from dining facilities on the RIT campus to create a biofuel which could then be used in RIT facilities vehicles. The design process which can be referenced below encapsulated the design of the processor, process flow and cost analysis.

Core Team Members


By creating biodiesel from the waste oil several cost benefits would be immediately acheived. RIT currently pays a disposal company to get rid of current waste oil from campus dining areas, this surcharge would be eliminated if the biodiesel project is instituted. Secondly, a portion of RIT's facilities fuel would be offset by biodiesel, this would reduce the yearly cost of fuel for RIT's diesel vehicle fleet.




Issues and Risks



Supplementary Files

Reaserch paper A research paper written by Jeffery Hoover which details the technological issues and the benefits to using and implementaion of biodiesel.
Biodiesel Processing A Microsoft Excel file which details the benchmarking process which was involved in the development and design of a biodiesel processor for the application. The design encompassed many of the ideas from several commercially available solutions.
Bio Project Description A detailed analysis of the biodiesel project including background, scope and issues.
Research A presentation which details the pros/cons of biodiesel as well as a brief history, issues, costs and a comparison to regular diesel fuel.
Cost of Processing A brief cost analysis of the biodiesel process and the number of batches which would need to be produced to provide a net cost benefit.
Market Processor Selection Processor selection matrix which helped to determine which type of commercially available processors would be the best processor for our application.
Bio Concept Review Powerpoint presentation which has a detailed scope of the overall process. Included are: a process flow map, process selection matrix, rough financial analysis, a system drawing and concept selection matricies.
Processor Cost A benchmark of similar processors to our design and their associated costs.
Dec 19th Deliverable Document which details emissions savings, weekly breakdown of project goals through SDII.
Biodiesel packet Packet that was presented at the end of Senior Design 1


"Without water" - transesterification of Biodiesel must be an anhydrous process or funny things happen. Water in the vegetable oil causes either no reaction or cloudy Biodiesel, and water in lye or methanol renders it less useful or even useless, depending on how much water is present. Either let your vegetable oil settle for 2-3 days before using and drain the water off the bottom, or heat the oil and boil off the water. Store lye and methanol in separate, air-tight containers.
B5, B10, B20, etc
This is the universally accepted method for indicating a blend of biodiesel and petrodiesel. The number in front of the B is the ratio of biodiesel, thus B5 is 5% biodiesel, 95% petrodiesel. B20 is 20% biodiesiel and 80% petrodiesel, etc.
Any fuel oil that is made from vegetable or animal fats using the process of transesterification. It is considered a fully renewable fuel, and usually a green fuel because the carbon dioxide it creates is absorbed back by the plants that make the biodiesel, so the net carbon dioxide that is left in the environment (theoretically) is zero. It is considered non-toxic (less toxic than table salt) and non-flammable, as the flash point is typically around 300 degrees F, making is much safer to store and handle than regular diesel or kerosene. Many gas stations are now offering blends of biodiesel and petrodiesel, or even pure biodiesel in warmer latitudes.
Bubble Wash
A method of final washing of Biodiesel through air agitation. Biodiesel floats above a quantity of water. Bubbles from an aquarium air pump and air stone can be sued to injected air into the water causing the bubbles to rise. At the water/Biodiesel interface, the air bubbles carry water up through the Biodiesel by surface tension. Simple diffusion causes water soluble impurities in the Biodiesel to be extracted into the water. As the bubble reaches the surface and breaks, the water is freed and percolates back down through the Biodiesel again.
Cetane Number
Measure of fuel ignition characteristics. Like the octane number used for gasoline, the higher the value, the better the fuel performance. A higher cetane number correlates with improved combustion, improved cold starting, reduced noise, white smoke, HC, CO and particulate emissions particularly during early warm-up phase. The EPA uses this parameter as a measure of aromatic content in fuel. Typical Cetane numbers around the world are as follows: Europe: 43 - 57, average 50 U.S. lower, minimum 40, average 43.
Cloud point
The temperature at which the first wax crystals appear and a standardized ASTM test protocol is used to determine this temperature.
A stable system of small particles dispersed in something else. A multi-phase system in which one dimension of a dispersed phase is of colloidal size. Colloids are the liquid and solid forms of aerosols, foams, emulsions, and suspensions within the colloidal size class. Milk and smoke are both colloids. Colloidal size is typically .001 micron to 1 micron in any dimension. Dispersions where the particle size is in this range are referred to as colloidal aerosols, colloidal emulsions, colloidal foams, or colloidal suspensions.
A stable or unstable system of fine particles, larger than colloidal size, evenly distributed in a medium.
A suspension of small drops of 1 liquid in a 2nd with which the 1st will not mix. Emulsions can be formed either by mechanical agitation, or by chemical processes. Unstable emulsions will separate with time or temperature. Stable emulsions will not separate.
Any of a large group of organic compounds formed when an acid and alcohol is mixed. CH3COOCH3 (Methyl acetate) is the simplest ester. BioDiesel contains methyl stearate.
Ethyl Alcohol (aka: corn liquor or grain alcohol)
Ethyl alcohol is the alcohol in adult beverages. It is mildly toxic. It is sometimes mixed with methyl alcohol for the purpose of making in poisonous (thus undrinkable) for certain applications, in a denaturant. It can be used to create biodiesel, although it requires more alcohol and is more expensive. The advantages of using ethyl alcohol include the ability to make your own (assuming owning a small still is legal in your area) and the much lower toxicity of the stored material.
Gel Point
This is the temperature that a given fuel oil (petrodiesel, biodiesel, kerosene) will begin to gel, thus making it harder for the fuel to flow and be useful. One of the problems with biodiesel is the higher gel point, but this varies according to the oil used to create the fuel. This is one reason it is blended in colder environments, to insure it will flow at reasonable temperatures.
The major byproduct of BioDiesel production. CH2-OH--CH-OH--CH2-OH - Each of the "OH" sites is one of the three places where an ester is broken off of the triglyeride molecule (veg. oil).
Potassium Hydroxide, which is used to make Biodiesel from ethanol, a metalic base (acid)
vailable commercially as Red Devil Lye and others, it is a caustic solution. There are two basic kinds, sodium hydroxide (soda lye) and potassium hydroxide (less common potash lye). They have a tremendous number of commercial uses, from farming to food preparation. Hominy is simply corn that is soaked in lye, for instance.
Lye is used as one of the catalysts (along with alcohol) for turning oil into biodiesel, although you must use the dry, undiluted mixes for this purpose.
Methyl Alcohol (aka: wood alcohol or methanol)
This is the simplest alcohol and is used for a antifreeze (particularly in windshield wiper fluids), solvent, fuel and the catalyst to create biodiesel. It is commonly used in pure form as a race car fuel, and is sometimes blended with gasoline to oxygenate the fuel and reduce pollution (although ethyl alcohol is more commonly used for this purpose due to the lower toxicity).
It is extremely poisonous and can not be made safe by dilution. If ingested in relatively small quantities, it causes blindness, liver failure and other issues, including death. When burned it produces carbon dioxide and water. The flames from a methanol fire are invisible, which causes problems for race car drivers involved in wrecks, however, it can be extinguished with simple water.
Sodium Methoxide - Sodium Methylate - (CH3-O+ Na-). An organic salt, in pure form a white powder. In biodiesel production, "methoxide" is a product of mixing methanol and sodium hydroxide, yielding a solution of sodium methoxide in methanol, and a significant amount of heat. Sodium Methoxide in methanol is a liquid that kills nerve cells before you can feel the pain. If you ever come into contact with it, rinse with water and seek medical attention immediately, it is also highly explosive and making the sodium methoxide mix is the most dangerous step when making Biodiesel.
A measure of acidity and alkalinity of a solution on a scale with 7 representing neutrality. Lower numbers indicate increasing acidity, and higher numbers increasing alkalinity. Each unit of change represents a tenfold change in acidity or alkalinity. pH is mathematically found by taking the negative logarithm of the effective hydrogen-ion concentration or hydrogen-ion activity. The units are gram equivalents per liter of the solution. The optimal pH for BioDiesel is 7 or neutral as distilled water and most tap water.
Straight Vegetable Oil. Some vehicles can be modified to run this as primary fuel, although most still use petro or biodiesel to start the vehicle, then switch over to the SVO tank for normal operation.
The reaction of an ester with a metallic base and water, i.e. the making of soap.
Applied to BioDiesel, titration is the act of determining the acidity of a sample of WVO by the dropwise addition of a known base to the sample while testing with pH paper for the desired neutral pH=7 reading. The amount of base needed to neutralize an amount of WVO determines how much base to add to the entire batch.
Certain chemicals, when mixed, will create two different chemicals. With the right chemicals, the process is called transesterification, such as mixing oil, lye and methanol to make biodiesel and glycerol. An example is when your grandmother used to make lye soap by boiling down lard (cow fat) with lye (from certain wood and ash) and alcohol from the still (ethyl alcohol, which works but not as well as methyl). The result was lye soap (glycerol with some lye left over) and lamp oil (biodiesel). She was simply doing the low tech version of what is still done today to make biodiesel. Of course, many people now make biodiesel in their own homes using better technology, but it is still a simple process.
Is a measure of how a liquid is resistant to flow; "thickness" or "thinness". Methanol has a low viscosity, while vegetable oil has a high viscosity.
Waste Vegetable Oil. Basically the same as SVO except it has been used, typically in restaurants to cool foods such as french fries, fish, chicken or other frozen or fresh foods. Typically it must be filtered and/or washed before using. It is readily converted into biodiesel through transesterification via methanol and lye, or can be used (after filtering) in a SVO vehicle.