Alternative ways to make biodiesel

When cars were first invented they obviously had to find a way to fuel the engine to make the car mobile. According to an article by Bob Sheaves, Rudolf Diesel of Germany was a man who first experimented with ways to fuel the automobile. He tried things from coal dust to hemp oil, but all did not compare to vegetable/peanut oil as a fuel source. However, petroleum oil was discovered a few years later and Diesel decided to use the petroleum oil and save the peanuts for feed. It wasn’t until fifty years later that agricultural researchers demonstrated to the U.S. Department of Energy that vegetable oil based fuels can reduce gas and other emissions. Rapeseed is an example of an alternative feedstock and is a winter annual feedstock. It can produce about 2,000 pounds of seed per acre, which yields about 100 gallons of oil for fuel, and 1,200 pounds of meal. According to the article, “if farmers were allowed to grow rapeseed as an energy crop on set-aside or CRP acreage, BIODIESEL would be used in agriculture. If the environmental advantages were fully understood, BIODIESEL would become the fuel of choice, even at a higher price, for many environmentally sensitive or pollutant-prone areas.”

While vegetable oil/peanut oil is a great alternative fuel source, scientists at the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology found that fungi makes biodiesel at room temperature. According to the article, the new method they found could lower the cost and increase the energy efficiency of fuel production. Normally, when making biodiesel, the ingredients must mix and heat for an extended period of time. However, these scientists found that passing sunflower oil and methanol through a bed of pellets made from fungal spores and allowing an enzyme produced by the fungus to do the work is an extremely efficient was to make biodiesel. The scientists understand that one of the major turn-offs for biodiesel is the time it takes to make it and its inefficient ways of doing so, however, using fungi proves to eliminate the time consuming process of heating the mixture. According to one of the scientists, the fungus Metarhizium anisopliae is an organism that makes plenty of enzymes which are able to “squish” the lipase into pellets, instead of taking the several hours to purify the lipase.


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