A team of investigators leaded by Victor Lin, from Iowa State university and program director for the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory, have developed a nanosphere-based catalyst claimed to be revolutionary for biodiesel production. Current methods use sodium methoxide – a toxic, corrosive and flammable catalyst – which must be removed using acid neutralization, water washes and separations. This catalyst is mostly lost during the process.
The new catalyst is claimed to convert efficiently vegetable oils or animal fats into fuel by using Lin's nanospheres with acidic catalysts to react with the free fatty acids and basic catalysts for the oils. The nanospheres are solid, which makes them easy to handle. They can also be recovered from the chemical mixture and recycled. And they can be used in existing biodiesel plants without major equipment changes. This technology is the result of four years of research.
The transition from lab testing to pilot-manufacturing will be financed by Catilin Inc. They expect to create enough nanospheres to reach a daily production of 300 gallons in 18 months.
[Source: Iowa State University via Nanowerk]