Out of the frying pan and into the Kia

University scientists are cooking up a green fuel revolution – by investigating how to use our waste cooking oil to produce Biodiesel suitable for use in campus vehicles

Luwen Gong, Dr James Winterburn, and Thomas Szpitter
Luwen Gong (left), Dr James Winterburn (centre), and Thomas Szpitter (right)

James Winterburn, Lecturer in the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science, is heading up the project, which aims to produce a 50-litre batch of high quality biodiesel for use in one vehicle by the start of the next academic year.

Biodiesel, a biodegradable, combustible fuel, made from vegetable oils and/or animal fats is recognised as a cleaner, greener alternative to more traditional fuels such as regular diesel.

The collaborative "proof of concept" project was conceived by Thomas Szpitter and involves Nasir Al-Lagtah, who is supervising an MSc project and developing laboratory classes on biodiesel production.

Dr Winterburn said: “The idea isn’t to immediately roll this out to the entire University fleet. Initially we are going to use a single University vehicle, which is still to be selected, and we are aiming to produce a 50 litre batch of high quality biodiesel by the start of the next academic year, just to demonstrate that this sort of thing can actually be done.

“We want to raise awareness of green issues by highlighting ways of reducing our dependence on crude oil and, more specifically, what can be done with an otherwise useless waste stream.”

He added: “There should be no noticeable difference in the performance of the vehicle once the biodiesel is being used, and a minimum cost of 20p per litre is achievable”.

“In principle it all sounds very simple but it’s actually getting hold of the cooking oil which is proving to be the hardest part. Used cooking oil from the various food outlets around the campus is currently removed by an outside company so we are asking some of the head chefs to keep some of it back for us!”


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