June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.489.1 - 13.489.17
Energizing an Introductory Chemical Engineering Course with Biodiesel
The biorefining industry is experiencing tremendous growth in the United States as well as in the State of Alabama. Over the past several years, domestic production of ethanol has doubled, while biodiesel production has more than tripled. Media attention highlighting the current high price and limited supply of crude oil and continually escalating environmental concerns with the use of petroleum fuels has increased interest in and awareness of renewable energy and biofuels, especially among students. Since chemical engineers play a vital role in the advancement of the biorefining industry, biofuel production is an excellent vehicle to make chemical engineering “come alive” for students and stimulate interest in the field as both a discipline and a profession.
The Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville has developed a hands-on laboratory activity allowing students to produce their own biodiesel. Biodiesel production is a relatively simple, safe, and inexpensive laboratory exercise, making it well-suited for use in outreach activities and introductory-level chemical engineering courses. At UA Huntsville, the activity is currently being used to introduce high school students as well as freshmen and transfer students to the field of chemical engineering. A modified version of the activity is utilized in the College of Engineering Summer Camp for high school students, while a more comprehensive version is used in the introductory chemical engineering course that is part of the department’s core curriculum. The laboratory activity is supplemented with a lecture that provides students with an overview of biofuels production and utilization and discusses the scientific and engineering aspects of biodiesel production.
This paper provides the materials, supplies, and procedures necessary to implement and execute the biodiesel production activity along with cost estimates. Also included are examples of supplemental lecture material and assignments and calculations appropriate for use in an introductory-level course.
The biofuels industry has experienced significant and well-publicized growth in recent years. Favorable tax incentives, the current high price and limited supply of crude oil, and continually escalating environmental concerns with the use of petroleum fuels have facilitated tremendous increases in production of the two primary biofuels, biodiesel and ethanol. Domestic biodiesel production more than tripled between 2005 and 2007, while ethanol production doubled between 2005 and 2006. Growth is certain to continue, as the U.S. Department of Energy has set the goal of replacing 30% of petroleum fuels with biofuels by 2030. Biofuels production in the state of Alabama is also experiencing significant growth. Currently, over 23 million gallons of biodiesel are produced in Alabama, with an additional 114 million gallons of capacity under construction. Various companies in the state are also developing ethanol production facilities.
Taconi, K., & Banish, R. M. (2008, June), Energizing An Introductory Chemical Engineering Course With Biodiesel Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. https://peer.asee.org/3451
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