I wonder if this can be done at home......eventually....
A LIVERPOOL professor is sending a buzz around the world after he turned
chip fat oil into biofuel - using a microwave.
John Moores University professor Ahmed Al-Shamma is leading the world in
pioneering new microwave technology which could help cut the world's CO²
The scientist has been collecting old oil from chip shops, kebab houses and
restaurants and using it to power his car.
He is now confident that, by 2015, the people of Merseyside could be driving
in cars powered by biofuel.
The British Government and European community are so impressed with the work
coming out of the small lab in Liverpool that they have given millions of
pounds in funding.
Prof Al-Shamma, head of RF and Microwave technology in the engineering
research institute, said: "Everyone has heard of biofuel - it's not new, but
using microwave technology is new. It brings all the benefits of sustainable
fuel but without the negatives, the waste byproducts.
And using microwave technology means one source can be used for multiple
"I have no doubt that, if the Government adapts a zero carbon approach, the
people of Merseyside will be driving around in cars fuelled by biofuel."
Prof Al-Shamma's team, which has drawn experts from across the globe, have
found using microwaves so efficient, they are already testing the mileage
they can get out of the car.
So far, test runs on an X reg (10 years old) VW car have shown dramatic
results which could lower the cost of fuel per litre to a mere 20p.
Explaining the background to the project, Prof Al-Shamma said: "Traditional
biofuel mixes crops, methanol and a catalyst for between four to eight
hours - you end up with biofuel and a waste product, glycerin.
"But there are huge negatives; the hunt for crops has meant many Third World
countries have been paid more to grow biofuel crops than regular eating
"This has led to huge food shortages.
"Also, the solvent used is very expensive and the process takes a long time.
"You end up with the biofuel but also have tonnes of glycerin. There's only
so much soap that the world needs from glycerin, so the rest ends up in
waste sites." He added: "This process is different; the raw material is
everywhere, think of all the fast food outlets and restaurants.
"At the moment, people have to pay to get rid of this and it ends up in
waste sites or contaminating sewerage; this way, there could never be enough
"The solvent used is on a three to one ratio, reducing it by 10 fold, it
requires 30 times less catalyst and the process takes a maximum of 15
"One litre of oil makes one litre of biofuel - like for like - with less
glycerin, which we then use to make an additive to skim off the biofuel and
start the recycling process."
Nowhere else in the world is using this technology and his work has led to
Prof Al-Shamma addressing European leaders in the EU Parliament. He added:
"I think this will be the future because the big oil industry players are
investing in biofuel."
And Prof Al-Shamma's microwave technology doesn't only stop at vegetable
oil. The university has been given £580,000 to turn grass into LPG (Liquid
The university is hoping to take polluted, infertile grass and weeds from
brownfield sites and break down the sugar to create bio-ethanol.
Not too much info in that article. My impression is that he is still
doing the 'standard' transesterification process with sodium hydroxide
and water, but instead of 4 hours at 140 deg C, he must reduce the
water, thus increasing the NaOH concentration, and speeds up the
reaction time by heating it all in a microwave. Seems like the same
reaction, so there must still be glycerin produced as a byproduct. The
resulting #2 fuel oil must still be thinned with a little methanol to
get the correct diesel viscosity. I assume the energy used in the
microwave heating process is less than in the 'heat it all in a water
heater' process. I dont think process energy is a cost driver in
biodiesel production, but using heat pumps for water heaters takes 25%
of the electricity of using resistance water heater elements (See
AirTap by Airgenerate).
A lot of hype and very little detail, I won't hold my breath.
I like bio-fuels, with, little practice they're easy to make, with a
little land the feed-crop is easy to grow, and if you make the effort,
your fuel problems are solved no matter what happens to price of gas.