The closest I've ever come to making biodiesel was helping a friend build and run an appleseed reactor. It did produce some biodiesel, but he was in charge of the project and I just lent a hand. I say this because that method made at least some sense to me: put your veggie oil and methanol together, heat, work a little magic, dry it, and you're good to go. Researchers at Augsburg College in Minnesota, though, have discovered a quick new way to make biodiesel that's beyond my technical understanding. Still, it seems to be an exciting new process.
According to Biodiesel Magazine, Brian Krohn (and undergrad student) and his advisor, Arlin Gyberg, and two other researchers figured out that using zirconia as a catalyst can make biodiesel from oil and alcohol in six seconds. That's freakin' fast. If you have the raw materials, the researchers say, this new Mcgyan process can make three million gallons of biodiesel from one column that's two feet long and four inches in diameter. The researchers say that the Mcgyan process has been tested "using a wide range of feedstocks with no problems" for the past six months. The first commercial plant using the Mcgyan process should be coming to Isanti, Minnetosa by October and run by Ever Cat Fuels (a company started by one of the researchers). The feedstocks are unusual for biodiesel: hydrous ethanol (instead of methanol) and corn oil from distillers grains (instead of soybean oil). Sounds like something to keep an eye on.

[Source: Biodiesel Magazine]


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