Brent Schulte, a chemical-engineering graduate student, has developed a method of converting chicken fat into biodiesel using a conversion process known as supercritical methanol treatment.
According to a report in ENN, the supercritical methanol treatment dissolves and causes a reaction between components of a product — in this case, chicken fat and tall oil — by subjecting the product to high temperature and pressure.
Substances become "supercritical" when they are heated and pressurized to a critical point, the highest temperature and pressure at which the substance can exist in equilibrium as a vapor and liquid.
For the process, Schulte subjected low-grade chicken fat and tall oil fatty acids with supercritical methanol, and produced biodiesel yields in excess of 89 and 94 percent, respectively.
With chicken fat, Schulte reached maximum yield at 325 degrees Celsius and a 40-to-1 molar ratio, which refers to the amount of methanol applied.
The process also produced a respectable yield of 80 percent at 300 degrees Celsius and the same amount of methanol, though at 275 degrees Celsius, the process was ineffective.
"Biodiesel provides an effective, sustainable-use fuel with many desirable properties," said Schulte.
"In addition to being a renewable, biodegradable and carbon-neutral fuel source, it can be formed in a matter of months from feedstocks produced locally, which promotes a more sustainable energy infrastructure. It also decreases dependence on foreign oil and creates new labor and market opportunities for domestic crops," he added.