Researchers have created a spongy material that effectively converts used vegetable oil into biodiesel, catalyzing a chain of chemical reactions.
Currently, rancid waste vegetable oils require thorough cleaning before processing into biodiesel, since raw materials containing no more than 1-2% of pollutants are suitable for modern energy-intensive processes. This significantly increases the cost and conversion time, which affects the price of the final product.
Scientists from the Royal University of Technology of Melbourne have found a way to efficiently convert low-grade raw materials containing up to 50% impurities into biodiesel. The team has developed a micron-sized spongy material that has several types of pores that sequentially catalyze various chemical reactions, effectively mimicking the way enzymes work..
After interacting with the micro-sponge, the waste oil turns into low carbon biodiesel. To organize an efficient process requires only a little heating and mixing of raw materials in a large container.
According to scientists, the new sponge can independently perform many reactions in a given sequence, so it can be compared to a microscopic production line. The technology allows doubling the profitability of transformation processes and can be adapted for other raw materials, for example, agricultural and food waste, algae, rubber, and plastic. Besides biodiesel, sponges can be customized to produce other valuable chemical precursors.
We also previously reported on the development of transformation technology waste paper production in nylon.
text: Ilya Bauer, photo: RMIT University, Getty Images