Researcher Sees Biodiesel Potential in Seeds

December4, 2003 [] University of Idaho researcher, Professor Brian He, reported that he has discovered opportunities in the rapeseed and mustard seed for use in local biodiesel production. He has explored spin-off uses of the production waste, dovetailing with the fundamental research of Charles Peterson, a University of Idaho biological and agricultural engineering professor, who began biofuels testing in 1979. From using a bottle of purchased sunflower oil as a fuel additive in a tractor, the research has proven the viability of large-scale biodiesel development for use in popular transportation vehicles, farm machines and transit systems. In the production of biodiesel, vegetable oil is mixed at high speed with alcohol, resulting in two layers of fluid. The top one is usable biodiesel; and the lower is glycerol. He is also exploring the conversion of the glycerol back into alcohol for more biodiesel production. Another by-product to biodiesel production is erucic acid, valuable in making more than 200 industrial products such as pharmaceuticals, plastics, cosmetics, ink, and photographic and recording materials. He is seeking ways to isolate this fatty acid from the oil for use as a separate product and then to recycle the balance back into the biodiesel production stream.
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