Farmers Using Microtechnology to Make Biodiesel
Farmers are working with scientists from Oregon State University to make biodiesel from their own soybean, canola, rape and mustard seed crops. Using microtechnology, the scientists have developed a new, faster way to create biodiesel. Goran Jovanovic, professor of chemical engineering at OSU, serves as lead investigator in the research. Jovanovic keeps a design prototype in a sandwich bag in his office. It's a plastic plate with 30 microreactor channels running parallel to each other, each about the width of a human hair. The entire plate can easily fit in the palm of a hand.
At one end of the plate are two indents. Jovanovic fills one with alcohol and the other with oil. They flow down the channels, reacting and producing glycerol — a common ingredient in soap and biodiesel.
He noted that microtechnology produces biodiesel about 100 times faster than the classical method. Another benefit is the small size of the plates, which makes the microreactors discrete and deployable.