Session S55a (Monday, 5:15pm, Willaman Gateway)

P357: Three-week biodiesel fuel project for a liberal arts environmental chemistry course

Rebecca Roesner (Illinois Wesleyan University, USA), Stephen Hoffmann (Purdue University, USA), Megan Connolly (Illinois Wesleyan University, USA)

As part of a cooperative project with Heartland Community College and Illinois State University, faculty at Illinois Wesleyan University have developed and implemented a three-week laboratory project concerning biodiesel fuel and implemented it in a liberal arts focused introductory chemistry course, Chemistry of the Environment.   In this case, Biodiesel fuel is prepared through the base-catalyzed transesterification of virgin vegetable oils with methanol to form fatty acid methyl esters (FAMES, the biodiesel) and glycerol.  During the first week of experimentation, pairs of students synthesize their own samples of biodiesel fuel and explore the details of the transesterification reaction using a guided inquiry approach.  In the second week of experimentation, students analyze their biodiesel fuel by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry and devise their own method to compare the viscosity of the biodiesel fuel with the viscosity of the oil from which it was derived.  During the third week of experimentation, students compare the energy contents of several fuels including hydrocarbons, alcohols, and biodiesel.  Student retention of the fuel concepts has been assessed using exam questions and student attitudes toward the laboratory exercises have been assessed using survey instruments.


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