Friday, October 31, 2008

Researchers Wanted

If you are interesting in doing dedicated campus based biodiesel research, Ryan is looking for you!  About 8 hours a work per week, Tuesday and Thursday!  Email him the following:

1. Any in class lab experience?
2. Outside class lab experience?
3. Do you feel comfortable in a lab?
4. Are you a klutz?  (Be honest.)
5. Major?
6. Year?

Farm this Saturday!

There is a trip to the farm this Saturday!  All interest in manual labor, please contact Mike soon!

Sunday, October 26, 2008


At the farm, Dr. Arnold and Matt have tested out the methanol recovery system (with a low temperature vacuum system).  They are now attempting to find out how pure the methanol is to see how viable reusing it could be.  Reuse is an environmentally friendly option but purity would be a factor in considering how economical the product is.

In the lab, Ryan is trying to figure out methods to quantitatively describe the purity of the bio-diesel.  IR spectra is being used, but there is no reference solution as of yet (other than those found in an ancient tome of spectra).  Plans exist to distill a portion of the bio-diesel already made into pure methyl esters to use them for the reference solution.

Ryan is also attempting to find out which type of reaction is most efficient for transesterification- single stage base, dual stage base and dual stage acid base.  The samples are being created now with plans to compare them (in terms of soap production, ease of implementation and cost).

Friday, October 17, 2008

Meeting Results

My apologies about the incorrect meeting time.  I got there late and so I only have part of the updates.  On the table were discussions about a certification process, a redesign of the heating process to increase safety, the possibility of heating the room with the bio-diesel and tonight's farm trip.
As for the certification, Dr. Arnold brought up the possibility of certification to use the bio-diesel facility.  At least one certified member would need to be present per batch process.  Once a certain proficiency with the apparatus was demonstrated, one could obtain this status.  This would reduce the amount of time senior members would need to be present individually and increase the amount of participation by younger members.  Exact standards for this have yet to be set.  At present, we can make 80 gallons of bio-diesel per week, with only two trips down per week.  With the certification process, each senior member would need to come down only once a month for a time span of five hours to achieve this amount.
The heating process failed last Thursday.  The methanol inside of the water heater combusted (after hitting it's flash point).  A solution proposed for this would be to heat up the water within the water heater and circulate this through the bio-diesel (in tubes, as a heat exchanger).  This would not only reduce the need to heat up the liquids but it would also minimize the possibility of starting any other combustions with the methanol.  (Bio-diesel's flash point is too high to combust under normal circumstances.)
The concept of heating the farm's room is not a new one.  In the future, it is entirely possible that the whole farm could be powered by an electric generator running off of a diesel engine, but at the moment the diesel heater would be too expensive and possibly dangerous.  At the moment, a heat exchanger from the water heater seems more realistic.
Tonight's trip will be an attempt to use a vacuum process to recover the methanol.  Good luck to them!


We will be meeting at 2:45 in the Student Organizations Room in the Commons.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


UMBC's biodiesel club is a small group of UMBC students, faculty and outsiders who are dedicated to biodiesel.  We have created a small apple-seed reactor and have this at the farm.  Of the officers, we currently have Mike German (President), Fellipe Baliero (Vice President), Ashrith Mathias (Treasurer), Ryan Park (Treasurer) and Tim Courtney (Partner in Crime).  If anyone has a strong interest in biodiesel and would like to be involved in the production or consumption of biodiesel, trying PR or would just like to help us in any way, please contact Mike at (