New catalyst could make biodiesel cheaper

Interesting new technology developed in Japan: a sugar-based catalyst to replace the commonly used lye in the transesterification reaction that turns veg-oil into biodiesel:

Michikazu Hara, of the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Yokohama, Japan, and his colleagues have used common, inexpensive sugars to form a recyclable solid acid that does the job on the cheap. Their research is reported in last week’s issue of the journal Nature.

“We estimate the cost of the catalyst to be one-tenth to one-fiftieth that of conventional catalysts,” Hara said.

The breakthrough could provide cost savings on a massive scale, he said, because the technique could fairly easily make the transition from the lab to the refinery—if interest warrants.
Cheaper Veggie Diesel May Change the Way We Drive National Geographic – 11/14/05

(thanks, Rachel)
Production cost is one major problem holding back biodiesel from large-scale adoption in the US. We need more researchers to contribute in such a productive way to solving the problems of renewable energy, instead of sniping at this technology from the ivory tower.

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