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New Catalyst Helps Create Biofuel from Waste Food Materials

A student from the Institute of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at South Ural State University (SUSU) and the winner of the UMNIK competition is working on a project to produce a fundamentally new catalyst that will help generate affordable biodiesel fuel from waste food raw materials. This form of fuel can be used in various automobiles, including cars, equipped with diesel engines.

New Catalyst Helps Create Biofuel from Waste Food Materials.
SUSU Student Creates a Catalyst for Biofuel Production. Image Credit: South Ural State University.

Gleb Zirnik, a third-year student from the Faculty of Chemistry, has presented a project on the conversion of waste food raw materials into fuel, as part of the student work competition. Aleksandr Chernukha, a researcher and senior lecturer from the Department of Materials Science, Physical and Chemical Properties of Materials, has supervised the project.

The project is aiming to develop a low-cost, regenerable catalyst through which waste edible fats and food raw materials can be converted into biofuels. The catalyst is a finely scattered powder that can be in gray, brown, or red color based on the content and is used to speed up chemical processes.

We are planning to create a new catalyst using the transesterification reaction between alcohols and triglycerides of fatty acids. At present, such catalysts as alkali metals, their alcoholates and acids are used for this reaction. These catalysts can be used once, and their use requires further waste disposal. The ferrite catalyst does not have these disadvantages.

Gleb Zirnik, Third-Year Student, Faculty of Chemistry, South Ural State University

It can be reused because it does not dissolve in water and regenerated because it is magnetically active. The resulting biofuel, biodiesel, is an excellent analog for synthetic diesel. When combusted, it gives less carbon monoxide and soot, is biodegradable and its production helps to get rid of food waste,” added Zirnik.

Biofuel firms will now be interested in this breakthrough. The use of discarded raw materials will considerably reduce the cost of the end product.

Apart from producing the catalyst itself, the researchers are also working on novel technology for its use. The fabrication of ferrite catalysts has already begun and a series of laboratory studies will be conducted to determine their effectiveness.

The test findings will be documented in several scientific articles in leading scientific journals, indexed in Web of Science and Scopus.


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