The Biodiesel Lab at Loyola's Lake Shore Campus is an integral part of the Biodiesel Program. Here, students produce and test biodiesel, make glycerin soap from lab waste products, and spend time on independent projects. Tours of the Biodiesel Lab are open to any interested parties by reservation.
Major lab activities and outputs include:
Biodiesel Fuel Production
- BioSoap Production
- Methanol Recovery
- Zero-Waste Production Research
About the Lab
The Loyola Facilities team is credited for their incredible support in building this new space. The dedicated Biodiesel Lab hosts a number of features that make the space both functional safe for fuel production. The Biodiesel Lab at 6317 North Broadway was built in 2008 to accommodate the growing program and its new role as fuel supplier for inter-campus shuttle buses. The lab serves as an interactive learning environment where students learn the processes involved in making biodiesel, conserving reactants, and converting waste products into soap. The space is home to our 4th generation biodiesel processor, a methanol recovery system, our soap production equipment, and an office area for the lab manager.
All fuel made in the Biodiesel Program is produced using 100% waste vegetable oil (WVO) as feedstock. Program fellows collect the grease from Loyola Dining Services and UnCommon Ground, a local eco-friendly restaurant, after it has been used for cooking. The grease is filtered to remove any solid impurities and then transferred to our processor for the waste to fuel conversion.
The process of converting waste vegetable oil to biodiesel is fairly simple. It involves the following steps:
Mixing methanol and lye (catalyst) and adding it to WVO.
Allowing reaction to settle into two products: biodiesel and glycerin.
Washing biodiesel to remove excess catalyst, methanol and other impurities.
Dry, filter, and test final product.
Over the span of three semesters, students in the Solutions to Environmental Problems (STEP) course developed a process for making soap from waste products in the biodiesel lab. The main ingredients are the glycerin formed from biodiesel production and waste vegetable oil from campus cafeterias. The soap, aptly named "BioSoap" is now featured in stores on both Water Tower and Lake Shore Campus. All proceeds from soap sales benefit the continued success of our program.
The biodiesel production process leaves us with two end products: biodiesel and glycerin. Just like the biodiesel, our glycerin requires some additional processing to make it into a usable, finished product. Glycerin produced in our lab is contaminated with the alcohol methanol which must be removed by distilling it.
Students in STEP: Biodiesel and fellows in the Biodiesel Program have designed and built a custom Methanol Recovery Unit (MRU) that can clean more than 40 gallons of glycerin at a time. The methanol that is distilled from the glycerin is condensed and then re-used in our biodiesel production. The glycerin then goes on to be used in our BioSoap, campus composting, and biogas projects.