Senior Honors Projects, 2010-current

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Award

Spring 2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)

Department

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Advisor(s)

Chris Bachmann

Daniel M. Downey

Thomas C. DeVore

Richard Foust

Abstract

Biofuels stand at the forefront of the United States’ energy independence efforts and are the renewable fuels most likely to be used to bridge the growing gap between fossil fuel’s cost effective availability and America’s needs. With a known domestic commercial production capability, many economic, environmental, and geo-political benefits, and an ability to be used in our current transportation infrastructure biodiesel has emerged as the most credible near term alternative energy fuel. The Senior Honors Project described herein in many ways has been an exercise in applied research. Although at first the project focused on the chemical evaluation of reactants and products involved in biodiesel production efforts, it eventually turned to applying the knowledge gained, by in depth review and those chemical evaluations, into concrete suggestions for protocols, procedures and inventions that might improve some of the nation’s biodiesel production and testing effort. To be widely accepted and commercially effective biodiesel must be processed to meet certain known standards published by the American Society for Testing and Materials [ASTM]. An ultimate goal of the research of this Honors Thesis is the establishment at James Madison University, and in accordance with ASTM standards, of an ability to efficiently utilize gas chromatography and specific analysis column to test for glycerin and other reactants in the production of biodiesel. A more immediate goal of the research is to create and demonstrate an ability to perform to ASTM standards the most pertinent of the required small batch biodiesel tests. The ability to improve the reactions involved in the ASTM testing methodology and/or the protocols and procedures acceptable to meet ASTM standards could have great impact on 8 biodiesel production in general and small batch bio-fuel operations such as James Madison University’s [JMU] specifically. After a thorough campus and laboratory inventory was performed, an equipment review was accomplished and a methodology agreement reached. Following an exhaustive literature and JMU project review the necessary laboratory equipment, chemicals, and reactants were identified and assembled. The equipment repair-laboratory assembly process is ongoing. Laboratory protocols and baselines were established and trial experiments were performed to help establish laboratory standards. Acceptable biodiesel samples were obtained and established experimental protocols are currently being performed in the hope of obtaining repeatable results. New protocols and processes have been offered to test for biodiesel and an invention to improve the transesterfication reaction has been proposed. More specifically, the author has proposed the invention of a solid-state, heterogeneous catalyst, embedded onto a static mixer, to improve the necessary biodiesel transesterfication reaction, and not currently ASTM-approved biofuel production and quality testing procedures. A catalyst such as proposed, possibly working in even non-critical laboratory environments, could effectively and efficiently improve the biodiesel ASTM testing protocols.

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