Rudolf Diesel introduced his engine and a new fuel to the world at the Paris exposition in 1899. His fuel was based on a crushed peanut oil. He created that fuel with a process we now know as trans esterification.
The transesterification process is the reaction of a triglyceride (fat/oil) with an alcohol to form esters and glycerol. A triglyceride has a glycerine molecule as its base with three long chain fatty acids attached. The characteristics of the fat are determined by the nature of the fatty acids attached to the glycerine. The nature of the fatty acids can, in turn, affect the characteristics of the biodiesel.
During the esterification process, the triglyceride is reacted with alcohol in the presence of a catalyst, usually a strong alkaline like sodium hydroxide. The alcohol reacts with the fatty acids to form the mono-alkyl ester, or biodiesel, and crude glycerol. In most biodiesel production, methanol is the alcohol used, producing methyl esters, and is base-catalyzed by either potassium or sodium hydroxide.
Glycerin that has been separated during trans esterification process is released as the byproduct of the chemical reaction. Glycerin will either sink to the bottom of reaction vessel or come to the surface depending on its phase.
While the process the BioCube uses is based on the same principles, the technological advances have changed the efficiency and effectiveness of the process.
BioCube is constantly striving for ways to control the finely balanced equilibrium chemical reaction in a way that is practical, accessible and commercially viable – particularly for off-grid and rural applications (although on-grid, urban application is also available). Through these endeavours owners can gain full advantage of the distributed nature of our biodiesel processor.
The intelligence written into the BioCube’s processors allow for full flexibility on oil type. These algorithms allow for precise management of temperatures and flow rates of oil and chemicals to optimise biodiesel output. The BioCube cannot turn flax into gold, but will create extremely high quality biodiesel from feedstock oil that satisfies certain quality criteria. Feedstock quality and its impact on the biodiesel output is a critically important concept for biodiesel users. (More information available from firstname.lastname@example.org)
BioCube uses methanol (Me OH) as the alcohol for its reaction and prefers the use of potassium as the base for its catalyst as this creates the best value glycerine. Sodium Methoxide can also be used, but it will have a roll on impact on the usability of the main by product (more information available from email@example.com).
Filtration is a critical part of the process of biodiesel creation. BioCube utilizes dry washing techniques as water washing can be wasteful and create toxic hazards. Filtration media is supplied through local distributors (more information available from firstname.lastname@example.org).
Managing free fatty acid content is also extremely important. The BioCube can take oils with free fatty acid (‘FFA’) content up to around 2% in the base unit. Many vegetable oils have significantly higher FFAs. Putting higher FFA content oil through the BioCube can create undue pressure on the system because of the creation of soaps, which clog the vessels and put the filtration media under pressure. These high FFA oils need to be pre-treated through neutralisation or esterification. Customers may have their own process, or BioCube sells ancillary equipment which allows for esterification of oils from 5-7% FFA to well within the 2% threshold (more information available from email@example.com)
Garbage in- Garbage Out: BioCube owners are expected to manage and control the quality of input feedstock oil and chemicals. If the oil is ultra high FFA, or rancid, or with high water content and/or the chemicals have oxidized or have been contaminated, the final product will reflect this. Managed poorly results will vary: managed well, the BioCube will provide extremely satisfying results.