Researchers from The University of Western Australia and around the world have developed a low-cost method for recycling used cooking oil and agricultural waste into biodiesel.
The method, published in Nature Catalysis, uses a new type of ultra-efficient catalyst that can make low-carbon biodiesel and other valuable complex molecules out of diverse, impure raw materials.
It is the first time that a multi-functional catalyst material has been developed that can perform several chemical reactions in sequence within a single catalyst particle.
The material is also cheap and easy to manufacture, using no precious metals, and requires little more than a large container, some gentle heating and stirring.
Co-author Dr Neil Robinson from the university’s Department of Chemical Engineering said: “Using the specialist facilities here at UWA we were able to look inside the pore structure of this fascinating new material in a totally non-destructive manner,” Dr Robinson said. “By watching the behaviour of liquid molecules in and around the material, it was possible to show that the different pore structures were well-connected, and that liquid outside of the material preferentially enters the large pores first, before moving into the smaller pores.
“These observations were crucial in showing that molecules can reach the different active sites within this material, and do so in the right order.”
The research was funded by the Australian Research Council with collaborators from RMIT University, University College London, University of Manchester, University of Plymouth, Aston University, Durham University and the University of Leeds.