Continuous biodiesel production from waste cooking oil using novel catalysts

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Chemical and Process Engineering


Global environmental efforts to decarbonise the power and transport sectors has led to significant investment and research into alternative fuel sources. Biodiesel could be an alternative to fossil fuels as a source of low carbon energy, however, its implication on food security urges consideration of non-edible based feedstocks and biomass wastes. For instance, used cooking oil (UCO) is one such alternative, offering a beneficial circular economy for biodiesel production as a cheap source of feedstock and with no implications on food security.
For efficient and economical conversion of UCO to biofuel, suitable catalysts must be developed with high selectivity towards biodiesel production and resistance to feedstock impurities, such as Free Fatty Acids (FFAs). Such catalysts must either be continually regeneratable or remain active throughout extended operation, as well as being easily separated from the effluent biodiesel stream. The novel catalyst is a core-shell functionalised magnetic nanoparticle that will be synthesised and characterised as part of this work. UCO with varying levels of impurities (e.g. different levels of FFAs) will be used as a cheap feedstock. The catalyst selectivity and stability will be studied initially in batch operation, however ultimately as part of a continuous reaction system. The potential to continually remove catalyst via external magnetic field and apply radiofrequency heating for temperature control will also be explored. Finally, the effect of the catalyst performance on the properties of the produced biodiesel will be investigated to overall determine the suitability of such nanocatalysts in a full-scale industrial setting.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/R513258/1 30/09/2018 29/09/2023
2446571 Studentship EP/R513258/1 30/09/2020 31/03/2024 Brandon Lowe
EP/T517860/1 30/09/2020 29/09/2025
2446571 Studentship EP/T517860/1 30/09/2020 31/03/2024 Brandon Lowe
Description Overall trends over the span of the last two decades within the field of nanoscale catalysis for biodiesel production have been identified. These compiled observations and recommendations for future research have led to published literature reviews in reputable journals, as well as informing my current research work which attempts to synthesize improved novel nanoscale catalysts for a continuous reaction scheme.
Exploitation Route There are clear gaps in the literature and unaddressed challenges within the research field that must be addressed if our society is to use such materials at scale for an industrial setting. It is hoped that compiling progress and providing personal recommendations will drive other research teams forward to produce ever more superior catalysts, alongside aiding the transition away from bench scale reactions towards more serious consideration of industrial applicability. Personal research work is currently ongoing to further explore these recommendations and unaddressed challenges.
Sectors Chemicals