Just like electricity, cars, trucks and other vehicles (in other words, transport) are one of the most important aspects of our daily life. Sadly, transport is one of the biggest sources of pollution. We can't stop using transport, but we can make sure our transport pollutes a lot less. How? Through a new technology called Biofuel.
> What is Biofuel?
Biofuels are biodegradable (can naturally be degraded by Mother Earth), non-toxic, renewable alternative fuels that contain no petroleum. There are different types of Biofuels, but the most common is Biodiesel.
> How does it work?
Biodiesel is made from renewable sources such as vegetable oil, animal fat, waste cooking oil, soy beans and seaweed. There are many different ways of producing biodiesel, but the following method is probably the most commonly used:
- A titration test is done to determine how much free fatty acids are left in the used oil (obtained from restaurants etc.).
- Once the results are known, the oil is heated to 55 degrees Centigrade and a mixture of alcohol and a catalyst are added. The amount added depends on how much fat is still in the oil.
- The oil, alcohol and acid mixture is mixed for a period of time and then left to settle.
- The oil will then have settled into various layers. On top is the biodiesel, in the middle is soapy substance and right at the bottom is glycerin.
- The glycerin and soap are drained out of the container and the oil is 'washed' (pumping a substance through the oil). This is done to get rid of any extra impurities that remain.
- After the oil has been washed, it's 'dried' to remove any excess water.
- The end product is Biodiesel, which is ready to be poured into a diesel-powered car.
The above-mentioned process is called transesterification.
We asked a local resident, who produces Biodiesel in his backyard, a few questions about the his work, costs and experience with Biodiesel.
The music used in the documentary was obtained from ccMixter.org, and is licensed with an open source license. The main theme is "Funky Theme" by Teru.
> Why is it green?
Biodiesel is one of the less 'greener' forms of energy, but it produces 80% less greenhouse emissions CyberLipid.org compared to conventional diesel. Half of the ingredients needed to produce Biodiesel can be recycled. Biodiesel is made out of natural sources vegetable oils, which means the production process is cleaner, can be done locally, and is less time consuming. Biodiesel can be produced anywhere, even in your own back yard!
> What's the catch?
Although diesel vehicles don't have to undergo any modifications, Biodiesel has to be phased in gradually. Biodiesel also loosens any junk that the engine collected while using Diesel. As a result of the abnormal amount of junk cleaned out, the car's filter might get clogged. If this happens, you'll have to get a new filter installed - nothing expensive, though. It's not used on a big scale yet because it's expensive to collect, harvest, process and store the raw materials, not mentioning the costs of the set up of production plants. It is, however, worthwhile for families to produce their own Biodiesel.
> See how Biodiesel is made!
We asked Mr. Neill Smit, a local resident, to take us through the exact process that he follows to create Biodiesel. The step-by-step explanations are incorporated into a small documentary.
FOR TEACHERS: This documentary was created with learners in mind. It's perfect for giving the learners an overview in a funky and engaging way. NOTE: Please explain to your learners that they should not attempt to create Biodiesel without the help of an adult and thorough research.
(If the movie file is played when you click the button above, rather right-click and choose 'Save Target As...' or 'Save Link As...')
The music used in the documentary was obtained from ccMixter.org and podsafeaudio.com, and are all licensed with an open source license. The main theme is "Rollin in the Hoopty" by cjacks. The rest of the soundtrack is made up of: "La Fuga" by PK, "Pentatonicing" by Pitx, and "Funky Theme" by Teru.