Chemists from the Leioa campus of the University of the Basque Country in northern Spain has successfully demonstrated that biodiesel from cafeteria waste oil is sufficient to meet the fuel needs of the campus. In general, used oil is recycled only three in every 10 times. Chemists from the Leioa campus of the University of the Basque Country in northern Spain has successfully demonstrated that biodiesel from cafeteria waste oil is sufficient to meet the fuel needs of the campus. The new initiative will allow the campus to decrease its use of fossil fuels, resulting in a smaller carbon footprint.
«From the perspective of gases emitted due to the greenhouse effect, these – the biodiesel fuels – are much more profitable than the others and are much cleaner», said Fernando Mijangos, the leader of the research project. The two-year project is financed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Catedra for the university’s sustainable development and environmental education programme.
The conversion of waste oil into biodiesel requires a transesterification reaction, or the process of exchanging an organic group of an ester with an organic group of an alcohol. These reactions are catalyzed through the addition of an acid or base catalyst.
The researchers looked into various techniques to discover the cheapest, most rapid and most appropriate method to enable this reaction. They were able to convert the waste oil into biodiesel in not more than an hour. Moreover, they discovered that the product created is sufficient to power lawn mowers, heating and the university’s vehicles. «Instead of dumping the waste down the sink, we offer a cleaner solution. This is its greatest advantage», said Mr. Mijangos. The research project will focus on two more aspects in the coming months – optimization of the product obtained and increasing social awareness. In general, used oil is recycled only three in every 10 times.
The public’s willingness to recycle used oil is essential to gather enough waste material to produce significant amounts of biodiesel. «While students are more aware, they are still slow in changing», noted Eneritz Anakabe, a lecturer in the university. «It is easier to throw away the oil directly down the sink.» She adds that implementing similar projects in a larger scale requires the support of both the government and the public.
By Katrice R. Jalbuena