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This activity introduces students to alternative fuels and gives them an opportunity to produce their own biodiesel fuel. The text of the exercise gives students a brief background in the environmental benefits of using biodiesel as a diesel substitute. The lab portion of this exercise demonstrates the basic chemistry involved in making biodiesel from vegetable oils and waste oils.
Many students have heard of biodiesel without realizing that producing the fuel from waste vegetable oil is a fairly simple process. Seeing the process firsthand and going through the steps from oil to fuel enables the student to grasp the fuel-making process. Included in this exercise is a basic oil analysis that is necessary to differentiate between the various oils that a biodiesel producer may encounter.
Chemistry, Technology Education
Handouts included. Computers with Internet access. Other materials listed in the activity.
National Standards: 9-12
- SEC-A: 1.b. Design and conduct scientific investigations.
- SEC-A: 1.d. Formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence.
- SEC-A: 1.e. Recognize and analyze alternative explanations and models.
- SEC-B: 2.c. A compound is formed when two or more kinds of atoms bind together chemically.
- SEC-B: 3.d. A large number of important reactions involve the transfer of electrons or hydrogen ions. In other reactions, chemical bonds are broken by heat or light to form very reactive radicals with electrons ready to form new bonds. Radical reactions control many processes such as the presence of ozone and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, burning and processing of fossil fuels, the formation of polymers, and explosions.
- SEC-B: 5.d. Everything tends to become less organized and less orderly over time. Thus, in all energy transfers, the overall effect is that the energy is spread out uniformly. Examples are the transfer of energy from hotter to cooler objects by conduction, radiation, or convection and the warming of our surroundings when we burn fuels.