Making Biodiesel in the Physical Chemistry Lab
Chelsea Hull removes the glycerol from her reaction. Glycerol is formed as a byproduct in the synthesis of biodiesel from vegetable oil.
The Physical Chemistry Laboratory course integrates the use of most of the instrumentation in the department along with other advanced laboratory techniques. In the biodiesel experiment, students prepare a biodiesel fuel by reacting vegetable oil with methanol. They analyze the biodiesel using bomb calorimetry to measure the heat of combustion and visible spectroscopy to measure the cloud point – where the biodiesel begins to solidify. Both properties are important in determining how useful the biodiesel would be as a fuel.