Summary: How To Make Biofuels
Off grid living is not just about reducing reliance on commercial fuel sources, but also represents a growing movement of people and businesses who want to promote cleaner energy that is less environmentally destructive.Making biodiesel is one such way to promote that.
Biodiesel, as the name implies, is a type of diesel that is produced through inducing a chemical reaction of a natural fat like vegetable oil, or in some cases, animal fats. As an alternative fuel source, biodiesel has garnered significant interest from organizations and environmental activists.
The good news for off grid living enthusiasts, is that making biodiesel at home is possible with easily obtainable ingredients and methods. The following method is a simple experiment that will introduce you to the basics of biodiesel production, on a small scale. Even if you don’t complete the experiment, it’s an excellent indicator of just how simple it is to create this clean burning fuel.
If you’re thinking about making biodiesel, you will need to familiarize yourself with the process. You will also need to work in a ventilated area that is well supplied with water, a spill kit, and a fire extinguisher for emergencies.
It’s a good idea to wear light protective clothing, such as a lab jacket, and you will need protective goggles and long butyl rubber gloves that provide protection up to your elbows.
This experiment also requires glass measuring utensils, a scale, a food or laser thermometer, a blender with a glass jar, and a separate glass container for resting the mixture.
Basic Steps for Making Biodiesel at Home
Vegetable oils are best for first time experimentation in making biodiesel. For the best results us canola or sunflower oil. It is possible to recycle oil, but make sure that the cooking oil has been filtered to remove traces of food and other contaminants.
Inside a glass mixer or container, safely pour 200ml of methanol and gently stir, or set the blender to low. Incorporate 3.5g of lye into the mixture. A chemical reaction will occur, creating sodium methoxide.
Allow the mixture to sit for two to five minutes, after which the lye will dissolve. You will know that this step is completed when the mixture turns completely clear, with no visible trace of the lye.
Now it’s time to heat your oil. You will need 1 liter of vegetable oil for this experiment, which should be heated to approximately 55 degrees Celsius. You can use a cooking thermometer or a laser thermometer to check the temperature.
You can now combine the oil and the previous mixture in the glass blender container. Mixing gently for up to 30 minutes, two substances will develop. These will be the biodiesel itself, and glycerin as a side product.
Carefully pour the mixture into a new glass container with a wide rim. The mixture should be allowed to sit until the two products are completely separated. After separation, the biodiesel will rest at the top of the mixture, as it has a lower density than the glycerin. The biodiesel can then be carefully removed and transferred to a glass or HDPE plastic storage container.
Is it Truly This Easy?
As evident from the experiment, making biodiesel is relatively simple, and is safe when proper precautions are followed. Producing biodiesel for off grid living is a real possibility, and wide scale applications are also promising.
Many proponents of biodiesel see it as a logical replacement for fossil fuels in industry and consumer use. However, it is still important to ensure that oil production methods are environmentally friendly and sustainable, so that the numerous environmental benefits of biodiesel are not negated in any way.
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