Imagine driving your car and stopping to fill up at Wendy’s. Not on burgers and fries, but on old cooking oil from the fast food restaurant’s deep fryers to use as fuel for your vehicle. It’s not science fiction, researchers and hobbyists are doing it today when they collect used cooking oil to convert to bio-diesel fuel to run diesel engines.
Big Walnut High School science teacher Matt Wallschlaeger (a.k.a. Wally) recently teamed up with school district maintenance employee Mark Inscho to help Wally’s environmental science students brew their own bio-diesel fuel from spent Wendy’s deep fryer cooking oil.
Inscho is a hobbyist who keeps an old diesel car at home that he powers with Wendy’s oil, but Wally said bio-diesel fuel could be made from any vegetable oil, and even animal fat. In fact, Wally said, the diesel engine was originally designed in Germany in 1897 by Rudolf Diesel to run on bio-diesel fuels made from peanut oil.
Wally’s environmental science students made about 24 liters of bio-diesel by mixing the cooking oil with methanol alcohol and lye. Because of the small batch operation, large quantities of lye and methanol were impractical to purchase, so the students used Red Devil 100 percent lye drain cleaner and Heet gas line antifreeze (Heet in the yellow bottle is 100 percent methanol).
After mixing the brew, the mixtures sat for eight hours to allow the glycerin to settle, the glycerin was drained off and the fuel was ready to burn. Inscho said he recommends “washing” the fuel several times before use, but that wasn’t needed for the classroom experiment.
Inscho brought a small diesel-burning tractor to the high school, had students pour their homemade bio-diesel into the fuel tank, and started the engine.
“You’ll notice there’s no black smoke like you get with petroleum-based diesel fuel,” Inscho told the students. “And the cost is only $.80 per gallon if the oil is free.”
Because his environmental science students study man’s impact on the natural environment, Wally explained to them that alternative fuels could be 100 percent nonpetroleum based, or a mixture of petroleum and additives. The ideal, he said, is to produce green energy with no emissions.
“This technology is available today, so why aren’t we using it?” Wally asked. “Green energy costs money because the petroleum industry would have to retool. America is dragging its feet, because a lot of money and time have already been invested in the existing petroleum industry.”
Why be green? Wally said to be environmentally responsible and to consume only our fair share.
“As a country, we’re not responsible environmental citizens of the planet,” Wally explained. “Americans consume one-fourth of the energy in the world; America constitutes only five percent of the world’s population. We use more than our share of the planet’s resources, and we use them in ways that harm the shared environment.”