This experiment provides students a hands-on opportunity to synthesize biodiesel using vegetable oil and methanol, with an NaOH catalyst. The biodiesel made is legitimate, and comparable with that produced by some commercial processes.
The experiment provides a slight introduction to organic chemistry in the discussion of hydrolysis to break the triglycerides found in oils. Students learn the difference between thermodynamics and kinetics because although hydrolysis is thermodynamically favorable, it proceeds slowly without addition of methanol and a NaOH catalyst.The reaction of vegetable oil and methanol is a transesterification reaction, producing biodiesel and glycerol, which are separated.
This experiment gives a practical application to an otherwise simple qualitative experiment. It is part of a 3 experiment series in which the following steps address this biodiesel’s toxicity and efficiency.
This design of this laboratory exercise was inspired by Biodiesel Synthesis submitted to GEMs by John Thompson (Lane Community College) in 2006.
Summary prepared March 2012 by Swetha Akella at the UC Berkeley.
Douskey, M. Synthesis of Biodiesel, College of Chemistry, UC Berkeley, 2012