Chemical Engineering Majors Transform Cooking Oil into Biodiesel

As the world attempts to decrease its reliance on petroleum-based fuels, scientists are continually exploring other viable options.

A team of chemical engineering students, including; Victoria Ashby, chemical engineering ’18; Anisa Khan: chemical engineering ’18; and Sarah Roghelia, chemical engineering, ’18 are researching how to effectively transform cooking oil into a usable biodiesel fuel.

All of the components needed for the process to work are not overly expensive and are readily available. So with further and more detailed design it could actually be built and not just be completely theoretical,” said Ashby.

The team’s ultimate goal was to test their theories and come up with a solution that would provide a real-world solution.

“I was surprised by how much research would have to be done and how many assumptions and major design factors we would make almost completely by ourselves. If we decided to go route A instead of route B we stuck to it and then gave a list of reasons why.”

The team used a simulation program known as ASPEN which gave them advanced experience using a common chemical engineering program in order to validate their research.

One of the major challenges with transforming cooking oil into biodiesel is making cost-effective so the end user.

Just because something is “innovative” or “new” doesn’t mean it is good or cost efficient. If something sounds too good to be true find a second source to back it up.”

Ashby explained that what makes student design such an important experience specifically for chemical engineering majors is the application of meticulous planning.

“Although we don’t make anything physical for showcase we still have to think about the tiny details and that’s the kind of thought process you should gain from this,” said Ashby.

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