BYOE: Using the Biodiesel Process as a Lab Activity to Reinforce Chemistry Concepts

Document Type

Conference Presentation

Department or Administrative Unit

Engineering Technologies, Safety, and Construction

Publication Date



This BYOE demonstration presents a simple process converting vegetable oil into biodiesel (or Fatty Acid Methyl Ester, FAME). The conversion of vegetable oil into biodiesel is a spontaneous and relatively robust catalyzed chemical process that can be easily adapted into a lab experiment using inexpensive equipment and supplies. The basic chemistry of the biodiesel conversion process is outlined in a worksheet format to allow students to calculate reactant and catalyst amounts. Students then measure out the chemicals and process their own individual batch in a discarded PET soda bottle. An instructor can also perform this lab activity as a simplified lab activity or an in-class demonstration. The pedagogical context can range from a high school or summer science camp presentation to a lab activity in a senior level engineering course. While the biodiesel reaction has been outlined in other sources, this paper describes a remarkably cost effective way to bring the process into the classroom as a lab activity. As a result it supports an educational outcome of incorporating experimental techniques and procedures into the curriculum. Based on student responses, the lab activity succeeds in demonstrating practical application of chemical principles that achieve the conversion of deep fryer oil waste into biodiesel fuel right before student’s eyes


This article was originally published in 2015 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition Proceedings. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.


2015 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition Proceedings


© American Society for Engineering Education, 2015