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High school student explains how to brew biodiesel at home

High school student explains how to brew biodiesel at home  
Filed under:
News
on 08/10/2008

Source: SouthCoastToday

As gas prices carry on to ascend globally, people are searching for ways and means to beat the hike and drive cheap. Some have shifted to driving e-cars. Some have given up driving and use the public transport while others have pedal cars in mind. However, no one seriously wants to forsake the great pleasure of driving barely because a gallon of fuel costs a few additional bucks. Cars offer privacy and the mere sensation of driving can never be duplicated.


Having thought about all that and dreaded by the fuel price hike, Gabe Schwartzman came up with a eternal and peculiar solution. He experimented utilizing his diesel Volvo and after a few flopped attempts, Gabe eventually did it. He now brews his own diesel in his backyard!

Gabe spends 50 cents to $1 to make a gallon of biodiesel, spent several months poring over "From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank," a book some refer to as the brewer's bible, before attempting his first gallon.

Finding cast-off fryer oil, nevertheless, was trickier than he anticipated. Local restaurant owners weren't utterly certain what to make of the lanky, long-haired teen when he showed up offering to cart away their used fryer oil for free.

"I got a lot of weird looks," Gabe said.

Eventually he arrived at an understanding with a local restaurant Red Ginger specializing in Chinese food. Every couple of weeks, Gabe carries away up to a half-dozen five-gallon vessels of cast-off oil.

In his underground "laboratory," Gabe, clothed in a rubber apron, apologizes for the gluey floor, clarifying that while biodiesel is a clean-burning product, its preparation is quite untidy. Of the three chief constituents Gabe uses, lye burns the skin on contact, and methanol can cause nerve damage if taken in through the skin or blindness if it gets into the eyes. Gabe always puts on goggles and sets aside a fire extinguisher to handle emergency situations.

"It comes with all the glop — whether it's peanut sauce or chicken," Gabe says as he used what looked like a giant turkey baster and a pair of pantyhose to separate out chicken pieces and stray cashews. The following step was to prepare a trial mixture. Since each batch of oil is distinct, resting on on what it was used to fry and how long it was in service, the quantities of lye and methanol must be calculated each time.

Once that was finished, it was the moment to brew. Gabe supplemented a mixture of lye and methanol to the used oil. Then he fastened a super-sized version of a hand blender, flicked it on and stood back. At the start, it appeared like brown gravy. After about 15 minutes, it darkened to look like chocolate sauce; after a few additional minutes, it obtained a reddish color and smelled of chemicals.

Gabe pours it into a holding vessel, where it remained for several hours. Subsequently, the biodiesel ascends to the top, and glycerol sinks to the bottom. The glycerol is drained, and the biodiesel is rinsed with water. When set, what was once gloppy brown oil is a clear, amber-colored liquid.

The first time I tried it, I messed up terribly and ended up with a giant vat of soap," Gabe confessed, noting that glycerin, the main ingredient in soap, is a byproduct of the brewing process. "Really, really greasy soap."

Before you go forward to manufacture your own fuel, exercise care and precaution. Gabe gives utmost importance to safety while brewing his fuel which looks very much like fun and should turn out to be exciting.



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