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Tiny Biodiesel Reactors 369

Lee_in_KC writes "A professor of chemical engineering at Oregon State University developed a small reactor to directly convert vegetable oil to biodiesel. Goran Jovanovic reports his invention is approximately the size of a credit card. It pumps vegetable oil and alcohol through parallel channels to convert the oil into biodiesel almost instantly. Current mainstream methods to produce biodiesel take more than a day and also produces other byproducts which must be neutralized before disposal or use in other manufacturing processes."
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Tiny Biodiesel Reactors

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @11:55PM (#15162409)
    Given that the pipes are smaller than a human hair, it's funny that the article says nothing about how many devices would you need to pump out commercially viable quantities.

    From the article:
    The device - about the size of a credit card - pumps vegetable oil and alcohol through tiny parallel channels, each smaller than a human hair, to convert the oil into biodiesel almost instantly...The device is small, but it can be stacked in banks to increase production levels to the volume required for commercial use.
  • Re:I'm waiting. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Dark Coder ( 66759 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:37AM (#15162596)
    Historically, companies have bought emerging patents for the primary reason of defending their existing business model.

    Oil companies are no exception. There is a 100 mpg carburetor patent that an oil company is sitting on. Dozens of batteries patents are sat on by automotives, oil and petrochemical industries.

    Microsoft is buying patent as a defensive mechanism against open-source software encroachments.

    Proctor and Gamble has bought out some organic companies and then dissolved them overnite to protect their non-organic trade secrets.

    Too many to mention...

    A perfect reason for abolishing the patent system (I am a patent holder) so that the level playing field is attained (no more money wasted on litigation, lawyers, arbitration, licensing deals, cross-licensing deals). Think of the lower cost the product will become!!!!
  • by WillAffleck ( 42386 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:45AM (#15162620)
    Looks at printer sized bio diesel generator: ...REPLACE CYAN BIO DIESEL CARTRIDGE...

    This guy must really like printers.

    Actually, many scientific labs at state universities use printers and printer heads a lot - for example, a new sealed plastic crystal suspension device created at the University of Washington uses HP inkjets (cheap to get, and colored Husky Purple) to deliver reagants in controlled amounts into plastic tubes which are then sealed by laser.

    Every university has a section that recycles computers and printers - so it's easy to divert some of them for use in development of new technologies.

    Thus, using printer technology to create a biodiesel converter is not that unusual.
  • biodiesel++ (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:56AM (#15162667) Homepage Journal
    Japanese researchers announced several months ago that they've eliminated the need for expensive acids [treehugger.com] in biodiesel reactors.
  • Re:better article (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Baddas ( 243852 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:58AM (#15162678) Homepage
    Not only that, but the point of catalysts is to increase the rate of reaction (in some cases with equilibrium reactions it results in shifting the balance to the other side)

    With microchannels like he's using, the surface area is so high you've got a naturally higher rate of reaction, so you may not need the catalyst at all.
  • Re:We're saved! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by couch_warrior ( 718752 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @01:14AM (#15162737)
    For all of your wordiness, your answer is nonsensical. X-ray tubes generate X-rays by "accelerating" electrons using the potential gap between an anode and a cathode. This is exactly , precisely, identically how a spark plug acclerates electrons to jump its gap. The energy of the electrons when they reach their destination is determined by ...the voltage potential between the electrodes. Which is exactly, precisely the same in a spark plug as it is in an X-ray tube. Your description of orbital shells is, well, mistaken. Flourescent lights may work that way. Xrays are ionizing radiation. Producing them requires an electron to be knocked free of its atom, and then return, emitting X-ray photons when returning to the orbital shell. While a few of the electrons in a spark plug may be absorbed by the gas an air mixture that is ignited in turn, most of them pass through to the anode. If they didn't the spark plug wouldn't fire at all because of the resistance (Like what happens when your spark plug is fouled with carbon build-up) As for the distance squared factor - there is also several feet between you and the Xray tube at the hospital - there has to be in order to allow the X-rays to spread sufficiently so that their angle of incidence with the film produces a reasonable image instead of a fish-eye view.
  • Precisely nothing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ogemaniac ( 841129 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @01:50AM (#15162853)
    Didn't your Econ 101 prof erase this myth for you long ago? Simply put, if big oil or anyone else has a useful patent, they could make more money by using it than hiding it.

    IF Big Oil is greedy, and IF Big Oil owns a useful patent, they Will use it.
  • by Half a dent ( 952274 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @03:56AM (#15163252)
    "What results is not only a tiny stream of 100 percent biodiesel fuel, but also glycerin, the latter having uses in making soaps and even fossil fuel-free plastics."

    Now just add the glycerin to a couple of acids in the correct quantities and BOOM! (Actual details not supplied for pretty obvious reasons!)
  • Pogue Patent #'s (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Thai + I ( 959712 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @05:22AM (#15163427)
    http://www.rexresearch.com/pogue/1pogue.htm [rexresearch.com] has three patent listings (#1,750,354 #1,997,497 #2,026,798), and some info about the much-debated carburetors.

    http://befreetech.com/suppressed_inventions.htm [befreetech.com] has more listings, including Canadian patents (Charles N. Pogue was Canadian).

    Pogue seems to have been bought out by the oil companies, and he did well for himself. Other inventors and tweakers have seen their offices/labs trashed and I have heard of disappearances and foul-play. Of course, you cannot believe everything you read, but considering what is at stake for the major movers-and-shakers, I wouldn't put it past them to do whatever it takes to keep what they have.

  • Re:better article (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mmkkbb ( 816035 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @06:51AM (#15163590) Homepage Journal
    my father-in-law modified two old mercedes so that they have dual fuel tanks. he starts up the car on regular diesel to avoid the clogging nature of veggie oil.

    he drives across the US pretty much for free, grabbing waste oil along the way. except in texas. apprently the oil there is too gross to use for fuel :)
  • Re:I'm waiting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NormalVisual ( 565491 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @08:33AM (#15163868)
    The devices do exist, but often aren't practical for everyday use. Many years ago, my dad built a vapor carburetor (basically an industrial strength fuel preheater) and installed it on his 1979 GMC Suburban, with the plumbing necessary to be able to switch it in and out of the fuel system. When in use and working well, the truck got around 40-45 mpg (I've seen it myself), but it was totally useless for anything except extended highway driving as it didn't deal with varying fuel demand very well and also took a bit of time to heat up enough to work. He eventually removed it as it mostly got in the way whenever he needed to do anything under the hood.
  • by Blackknight ( 25168 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @10:36AM (#15164739) Homepage
    You don't need new fuel lines if your engine is made within the last 20 years or so. Also, there's no need to upgrade anything, just fill your car and go.

    I've been making biodiesel for a few years now and it still gets me just how uninformed everybody is on it.

    You can see pics of my reactor at http://www.watters.ws/gallery/biodiesel [watters.ws]. I just uploaded some newer pictures last week.
  • Re:Ostriches. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SEE ( 7681 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @10:58AM (#15164923) Homepage
    First, the amount of energy needed will stay the same, whether you run your truck on gasoline, diesel, alcohol, natural gas, wood, coal, electricity, hydrogen or gooseshit.

    Well, yes, but biodiesel's energy comes from the Sun, via photosynthesis. And while solar will eventually run out, when it does the Earth will be uninhabitable anyway.

    Second, the result of combustion will always be CO2 (except for Hydrogen and electricity), so forget about cancelling global warming.

    Except, of course, all the CO2 put out by burning by biodisel is CO2 that the plants took out of the air in the first place, so there's no increase in atmospheric CO2.

    Third, where are you going to grow all the plants needed to make all that vegetable oil and alcohol???

    Ah, now you've struck a useful note. Even if all the Earth's arable land surface were farmed at American productivity levels with maximum-production oil crops, we still couldn't displace ordinary diesel use.

    However, there is an alternative; oily algae. While the infrastructure to start producing it in necessary qantities would be expensive, it has high-enough oil output per acre to be a practical alternative. And the land for it can be vast tracts of desert, the pools filled with seawater.

    Where are you going to take the energy needed to transform all those plants into biodiesel?

    The energy content of biodiesel exceeds the energy necessary to process high-oil algae; the primary energy source for the creation of the long oil chains is the plant's photosynthesis. The result is that biodiesel-powered generators could be used to generate the power for the pressing and conversion process.

    How many people will starve so the americans can still move their arses in their plush trucks???

    None, just like today. Some will continue to starve because of deliberately chosen policies of thier national governments, like every recorded famine of the last thirty years. But changing that is a matter of willingness to violently violate the soverignty of the famine-causing governments, not economics or resource distribution.

    There is no miracle solution,

    Right, just solutions that require difficult and expensive -- but achievable -- engineering.
  • by Taxman415a ( 863020 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @01:35PM (#15166427) Homepage Journal
    Nice karma whoring. That's from your blog eh? I personally collated those statistics and added them to the Wikipedia biodiesel article [wikipedia.org] with this diff [wikipedia.org]. They were subsequently improved with additional unit conversions and I and maybe others added some additional ones later. And your units aren't even right, what's an m/km?. If you're going to take GFDL material, which I do agree you can use freely as long as you follow the license, at least get the fixes too.

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