Ever-increasing demands for fuel and ever-depleting reserves of crude oil have triggered extensive research into the production of biodiesel. Malaysian researchers are looking at how to maximise the efficiency of catalysts, substances that increase the rate of a chemical reaction such as those which convert biomass to fuel.

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A promising approach is to synthesise fuels ­­­from biomass sources such as vegetable oil. This requires a catalyst and traditionally these catalysts have been liquids, but there are several advantages to developing solid alternatives – separation from the product is easier and they are easier to dispose of.

A review of studies on such catalysts for biodiesel production, by researchers at Universiti Putra Malaysia and Universiti Malaysia Sabah, has determined that a basic rather than acidic catalyst is best, and that the most effective solid catalysts are in powder form with the particle diameters ranging from nanometres to micrometres. However, such powders require energy-intensive separation from the product, and the reviewers suggest that spherical millimetre-scale particles would be optimal. Designing such catalysts would, according to the researchers, yield high biodiesel production.

For further information contact:

Dr. Yun Hin Taufiq-Yap

Catalysis Science and Technology Research Center

Faculty of Science

University Putra Malaysia

Email: yap@science.upm.edu.my