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    Biodiesel is a way for Americans to take control of how they spend their money on fuel, keeping it in their local economy

Alternative Fuels are the next step in a grassroots evolution in lifestyle. Using sustainable energy is as revolutionary as the internet has been to communication.

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Biodiesel refers to any diesel-equivalent Biofuel usually made of vegetable oils or animal fats. Several different kinds of fuels are called biodiesel: usually biodiesel refers to an ester, or an oxygenate, made from the oil and methanol, but alkane (non-oxygenate) biodiesel, that is, biomass-to-liquid (BTL) fuel is also available. Sometimes even unrefined vegetable oil is called "biodiesel". Unrefined vegetable oil requires fuel pre heating and filtration due to issues with coagulation, and also some modification to the fuel system. In contrast, alkane biodiesel is of a similar viscosity to petrochemical diesel, and is usually of a higher quality than petrochemical options available on the U.S. market.

Biodiesel is biodegradable and non-toxic, and has significantly fewer emissions than petroleum-based diesel (petro-diesel) when burned. Biodiesel functions in current diesel engines, and is a possible candidate to replace fossil fuels as the world's primary transport energy source.

With a flash point of 160 C, biodiesel is classified as a non-flammable liquid by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This property makes biodiesel relatively safe to produce in your own home, and vehicles fueled by pure biodiesel are far safer in accidents than ones powered by petroleum diesel or the explosively combustible gasoline. Precautions should be taken in very cold climates, where biodiesel may gel at higher temperatures than petroleum diesel.

Biodiesel can be distributed using today's infrastructure, and its use and production is increasing rapidly (especially in Europe, the United States, and Asia). Fuel stations are beginning to make biodiesel available to consumers, and a growing number of transport fleets use it as an additive in their fuel. Biodiesel is generally more expensive to purchase than petroleum diesel, but can be made at home for much cheaper than either. This differential may diminish due to economies of scale, the rising cost of petroleum, and government subsidization favoring the use of biodiesel.

Transesterification of a vegetable oil was conducted as early as 1853, by scientists E. Duffy and J. Patrick, many years before the first diesel engine became functional. Rudolf Diesel's prime model, a single 10 ft (3 m) iron cylinder with a flywheel at its base, ran on its own power for the first time in Augsburg, Germany on August 10, 1893. In remembrance of this event, August 10 has been declared International Biodiesel Day. Diesel later demonstrated his engine and received the "Grand Prix" (highest prize) at the World Fair in Paris, France in 1900. This engine stood as an example of Diesel's vision because it was powered by peanut oil-a Biofuel, though not strictly biodiesel, since it was not transesterified. He believed that the utilization of a biomass fuel was the real future of his engine. In a 1912 speech, Rudolf Diesel said, "the use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today, but such oils may become, in the course of time, as important as petroleum and the coal-tar products of the present time."

During the 1920s, diesel engine manufacturers altered their engines to utilize the lower viscosity of the fossil fuel (petrodiesel) rather than vegetable oil, a biomass fuel. The petroleum industries were able to make inroads in fuel markets because their fuel was much cheaper to produce than the biomass alternatives. The result was, for many years, a near elimination of the biomass fuel production infrastructure. Only recently have environmental impact concerns and a decreasing cost differential made biomass fuels such as biodiesel a growing alternative.

The revival of biodiesel production started with farm co-operatives in the 1980s in Austria, but in 1991 the first industrial-scale plant opened in Aschach, also in Austria, with a capacity in excess of 10,000 m^3 per year. Throughout the 1990s, plants were opened in many European countries, including the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Sweden. At the same time, nations in other parts of world also saw local production of biodiesel starting up and by 1998, the Austrian Biofuels institute identified 21 countries with commercial biodiesel projects.

In the 1990s, France launched the local production of biodiesel fuel (known locally as diester) obtained by the transesterification of rapeseed oil. It is mixed to the proportion of 5 % into regular diesel fuel, and to the proportion of 30 % into the diesel fuel used by some captive fleets (public transportation). Renault, Peugeot, and other manufacturers have certified truck engines for use with up to this partial biodiesel. Experiments with 50 % biodiesel are underway.

From 1978 to 1996, the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory experimented with using algae as a biodiesel source in the "Aquatic Species Program". A recent paper from Michael Briggs at the UNH Biodiesel Group, offers estimates for the realistic replacement of all vehicular fuel with biodiesel by utilizing algae that has a greater than 50 % natural oil content, which he suggests can be grown on algae ponds at wastewater treatment plants.

Meanwhile, independent results have shown that GreenFuel Technologies, a Cambridge, MA company founded by Isaac Berzin, has been successful in producing biodiesel growing algae on flue gas emissions from power plant smokestacks. Using a patented algae bioreactor, Green Fuel utilizes microalgae and a process of photomodulation to reduce emissions: 40 percent less carbon dioxide and 86 percent less nitrous oxide. This oil-rich algae can then be extracted from the system and processed into biodiesel, and the dried remainder further reprocessed to create ethanol. The company is testing their method at the MIT cogeneration facility and at an undisclosed 1000-megawatt power facility in the southwestern U.S.


This article is from Wikipedia. All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
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