A group of Chemists from the University of Leicester have developed a way of purifying biodiesel made from vegetable oils, which is cheap, simple and low in toxicity.
The team, led by Professor Andrew Abbott is able to remove glycerol, the main by-product of vegetable oil-based biodiesel, using ionic liquids made in part by vitamin B4 (choline chloride).
If left in biodiesel, glycerol (a syrupy sugar alcohol) would damage engines but this technique simply washes it out of the fuel. The ionic liquid developed by Professor Abbott uses a complex of choline chloride with glycerol to extract more glycerol out of the biodiesel.
The Leicester process is greener than traditional processes and effectively provides a sustainable methodology for the purification of biodiesel without the production of significant waste.
Professor Abbott commented: “We hope that further research will optimise the ionic liquid recycling and recovery of the glycerol. We are hoping to collaborate with a biodiesel producer to test this technology further.”
This process offers tremendous potential, if it becomes a commercial product it will be a very low cost low toxicity option to the current "dry wash" solutions.