DIY biofuels: The fat of the land
December 17, 2011 Editor 0
DIESEL engines are famously unfussy about what they burn in their cylinders. Indeed, Rudolf Diesel’s original design ran on powdered coal. But even he might have been taken aback by the recipe concocted by Peter Ferlow. Mr Ferlow, who lives in a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia, is one of the leaders of a growing band of enthusiasts who brew their own car fuel. His diesel engine runs on oil collected from the kitchen of a local pub.The recipe starts by filtering the breadcrumbs out with a mesh screen. After that you warm the oil up and add sodium hydroxide and methanol. The sodium hydroxide (known as “lye”, in the trade) breaks the oil molecules into fatty acids and glycerol. The methanol reacts with the fatty acids to form esters. Drain away the glycerol. Wash the remainder with water to remove impurities and surplus lye. Drain that water. Then aerate what is left with an aquarium bubbler to drive off the last traces of moisture. The result is 175 litres of finest home-brewed biodiesel—enough to drive Mr Ferlow’s pickup truck for 1,200km (750 miles). And the cost, he reckons, is a mere C$45 (about $44,…
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Categories: The Economist
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