Falafel With A Side Of Diesel
Fast food is one of the largest industries in the world. According to The Healthy Eating Guide, there are over 25,000 fast food chains in the United States only and Americans are spending over $140 billion on fast food every year. But an industry this big does not go by without leaving its mark, or what environmentalists are calling “footprints.” But what if that industry could “give back” by turning its leftover cooking oil into green biodiesel for your cars?
That is exactly what two Israeli scientists are trying to do. Dr. Sobhi Basheer and Dr. Ahmed Tafesh of TransBiodiesel, have developed a new process by which any oil, including leftovers of fast food joints, or “falafel stands,” as they say, can be turned into biodiesel, without requiring much energy in the process.
The duo developed a biological enzyme that allows the transformation of any kind of oil into the much less pollutant bio-diesel suitable for diesel engines.
Presently, two alkaline catalysts are mostly used in the production process of biodiesel – sodium methoxide and sodium hydroxide. Potassium hydroxide may also be used as a catalyst for biodiesel production.
“In both cases the process results in large amounts of alkaline toxic waste and complexity in downstream processing,” Basheer says. “Low grade oils cannot be used, oil needs to be heated and catalysts cannot be reused. In addition Sodium Methoxide is an explosive material, which requires special care and is relatively expensive.”
TransBiodiesel’s says their enzyme-based catalysts do not lead to toxic waste and do not need to be heated, meaning much less energy is required. “Low-grade oils can also be used in the process,” says Basheer.
TransBiodiesel already manufactures its biodiesel at its plant in Israel but says it is looking for additional investment before expanding to the international market.
The cost of TransBiodiesel’s technology is $150-300 per kg enzyme depending on volume. Total enzyme cost to produce 40,000 tonnes of biodiesel is around $2 million.
“By using the TransBiodiesel technology, 3,000-5,000 tons of biodiesel can be produced per ton of enzyme, depending on the purity of the feedstock oil,” Basheer adds.
Photo by joyosity