Biodiesel reaches new heights but needs support

Alanna Navin


Georgia Southern University’s Mechanical Engineering Department is conducting research on combustion emissions, however there is a need to reach out for more support from companies and people all around.

“We are really confident we are doing a good job, but it’s still a long way. We still need to develop, we need resources, the lab needs support in general,” Dr. Valentin Soloiu, professor in mechanical engineering, said.

This year Soloiu’s team of students won the Environmental Protection Agency 2013 P3 award for its work in low temperature combustion with reduced emissions. However, despite the achievement, the department still sees the need to expand and further the research.

Many of the students have jobs in town to support themselves, which takes a toll on the research. There is always a tradeoff between how much time is spent working and researching in the lab, Soloiu said.

“We would like to reach further to get funding for these bright kids to be fully dedicated to research because they can really get amazing results,” Soloiu said.

The students in the lab are contributing to the pioneering of the use of different biodiesels such as conductive biodiesel and butanol (a type of alcohol) and the use of poultry fat.

“Most diesel engines can run biodiesel without any major modifications to the engine, as long as the biodiesel is made properly. Biodiesel is relatively simple to make,” Martin Muinos, junior mechanical engineering major, said

“[Conducive biodiesel and butanol] is a technology that we are developing. We found emission reduction for soot, which is a particulate matter about 80 percent, and NOx, which a combination of nitrous oxide by 60 percent,” Alejandro Rivero-Castillo, masters in applied engineering, said.

“Conducive biodiesel with butanol has never been done before,” Castillo-Rivero said.

The research for the biodiesel will be presented in a paper and submitted to the Society of Automotive Engineers for review next year.

“People are really interested. Every single person that I spoke to is basically astonished by what we are doing,” Castillo-Rivero said.

Another particular biodiesel is derived from poultry fat. This is also another point of research for the mechanical engineering department.

“[Poultry fat biodiesel] keeps the overall engine efficiency similar to a diesel engine. Your fuel consumption goes up slightly by 10 percent and emissions decrease with biodiesel,” Muinos said.

“It’s a waste product, so most people don’t see any use for it,” Muinos said.

Soloiu said that, according to some calculations, public school buses within the state of Georgia could be fueled from waster products within the borders of the states and that importing oil for that purpose would be unnecessary.

Soloiu said, “Every drop makes a dent. If you look at the level of the state, only taking Georgia in account, we can make a very big impact.”