The objective of balancing the elements of people, prosperity and the planet was paramount for the duration of the Phase I research. An inexpensive carbon catalyst for the esterification of fatty acids was easily prepared from a bio-renewable material and was demonstrated to be more effective for fatty acid removal from waste oil than synthetic petroleum based catalysts. While sulfuric acid, which is often used as a homogeneous catalyst, was initially needed to prepare the catalyst, the potential for reusing the solid catalyst ultimately reduces the amount of this corrosive material used. This is significant in that it enables the biodiesel process to be streamlined, while still reducing costs and the number of waste streams. Production costs are also low as the starting material (sugar) is easily available and very inexpensive. The production of a catalyst from a renewable feedstock is in line with the drive toward sustainability as we move away from the petroleum based polymeric catalysts used in industry today.
S.R. Hash, C.S. Estes and H. F. Webster “Synthesis and characterization of a novel solid acid catalyst for improved biodiesel production”, 234th National ACS Meeting, Boston, August, 2007 (oral)
S.R. Hash, C.S. Estes and H. F. Webster “Synthesis and Characterization of a Novel Solid Acid Catalyst for Improved Use of Waste Oil Feedstock for Biodiesel Production”, 11th Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, Washington D.C., June 2007 (poster)
S.R. Hash, C.S. Estes and H. F. Webster “Synthesis and Characterization of a Novel Solid Acid Catalyst for Biodiesel Production”, 11th Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, Washington D.C., June 2007 (poster; winner of a $1500 travel grant for best poster)
As outlined in the P3 Phase I proposal, our objective was to develop a solid acid catalyst to improve the utilization of waste oil as a feedstock for biodiesel production through the removal of free fatty acids by esterification. While several commercially produced solid acid catalysts are readily available for use in esterification reactions (i.e. Amberlyst and Nafion), they are very expensive synthetic petroleum based products. Our catalyst is developed from a renewable sugar source, is inexpensive, simple to produce, and is expected to find use in the synthesis of a number of industrially important reactions including esterification, hydrolysis, and etherification. These advantages may allow the adoption of the technology by not only interested businesses but also individuals in the growing biodiesel community in both the developed and developing world.