How Do You Make Biodiesel at Home?


Quick Answer

Make biodiesel at home using vegetable oil, methanol and sodium hydroxide, commonly known as lye. While biodiesel is not toxic, some of the inputs and intermediate products of biodiesel production are toxic or dangerous to handle. Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment, including gloves, respirators and eye protection.

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Full Answer

Heat the vegetable oil to 55 degrees Celsius. Combine 250 milliliters of methanol with four grams of sodium hydroxide in a heavy-duty glass vessel. These ingredients can take up to 10 minutes to dissolve thoroughly, producing an intermediate stage reagent called methoxide. As the ingredients combine, the slow chemical reaction produces a small but noticeable amount of heat. Because methoxide is highly toxic and sodium hydroxide can cause chemical burns, wearing personal protective equipment is crucial.

Transfer the warm vegetable oil to a large glass or plastic container and add the methoxide. Seal the container and shake it vigorously for 15 seconds. Over the next two days, the methoxide reacts with the oil to produce biodiesel and glycerin, better known as soap. The biodiesel rises to the top and the glycerin settles on the bottom, resulting in two clearly defined layers of liquid. Remove the biodiesel and leave the glycerin behind.

Wash the biodiesel by gently adding half a liter of water and rotating the container. Drain the water after it separates from the oil, and repeat the wash process five more times. To make the biodiesel suitable for use in most diesel vehicles, remove all of the water from the mix using evaporation or a suction pump.

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