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High School Chemistry using Biodiesel

Eight chemistry labs are designed by the scientists and researchers at the University of Idaho's Biological Engineering Department to be used in a high school setting. These labs can also be used as individual labs to teach various concepts commonly encountered in high school curriculums. To view a summary of all labs suitable for incorporating in high school curriculums, Click here.

Each lab has a companion video demonstrating how to conduct the lab safely and accurately. Learning outcomes of each lab and titles are given below:

Laboratory PDF Video
1. The Molecules of the Biodiesel Reaction

  1. Learn different types of organic molecules relevant to biodiesel and its production,including hydrocarbons, fatty acids, alcohols, triglycerides, methyl esters,sodium/potassium hydroxides, sodium/potassium methoxides, and glycerol.
  2. Learn categorization of chemicals, e.g., hydrocarbons, alcohols, esters, etc.
  3. Learn 3-D configuration of some of the some molecules aforementioned by making models, e.g., stearic acid methyl ester, and tri-stearic glyceride.
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2. Chemical Reactions

  1. Learn / review the Periodic Table.
  2. Learn concept of atomic weight of elements.
  3. Learn calculating molecular weights using atomic weights of elements.
  4. Learn calculating average molecular weights of multi-component mixtures using molecular weights of chemicals.
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3. Determination of the Acid Value of Vegetable Oils by Titration

  1. Learn concepts of acidity and pH values in aqueous solution.
  2. Learn concepts of water dissociation and pKa (H+ + OH- <==> H2O)
  3. Learn concepts of acidity and acid values in organic solution.
  4. Learn concepts of different titration color indicators and their responses to pH ranges.
  5. Learn titration techniques.
  6. Learn how to obtain acid values of vegetable oils.
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4. Chemical Equilibrium in Biodiesel Production

  1. Learn concept of solubility of a chemical dissolving in another.
  2. Learn concept of solubility and dissolving physically and chemically.
  3. Learn chemical reaction of sodium hydroxide and methanol to form sodiummethylate and water (
  4. Learn calculating the concentrations of sodium methylate in methanol solution; conversion between molar and mass concentrations.
  5. Learn the concept of water being an undesired by-product in methylate preparation.
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5. Transesterification of Vegetable Oil and Alcohol to Produce Ethyl Esters (Biodiesel)

  1. Learn concepts of esterification and transesterification.
  2. Learn concept of reversible and irreversible chemical reactions.
  3. Learn concept of stoichiometry.
  4. Learn concept of catalysis.
  5. Learn the concept of water being an undesired by-product in methylate preparation.
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6. Physical and Chemical Solubility

  1. Learn that transesterification is a reversible chemical reaction; that excess methanol is needed to completely convert vegetable oil to esters; that a catalyst is required; that additional catalyst is required to neutralize free fatty acid/ compensate acidity.
  2. Learn that the transesterification is a liquid phase reaction and mixing of vegetable oil with methanol is necessary; that methanol has limited solubility in vegetable oil.
  3. Learn that elevated temperature and agitation are needed for the chemical reaction.
  4. Learn that side reactions/saponification occur simultaneously.
  5. Learn by-product glycerol can by separate easily by gravity / density difference.
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7. Using Differences in Solubility to Remove Contaminants from Biodiesel

  1. Learn that small quantity of methanol exists in methyl esters despite its low solubility.
  2. Learn that small quantity of minerals exist in the form of sodium methylate.
  3. Learn concept of no minerals in fuels.
  4. Learn that impurities in esters can be cleaned by extraction.
  5. Learn concept of solvent extraction and partition factors of minerals in solvents.
  6. Learn solvent extraction calculation, and single-step vs. multi-step extractions.
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8. Density Measurement of Chemicals and Fuels

  1. Learn concept of density is a physical property of chemical compounds.
  2. Learn concept of density change vs. temperature.
  3. Learn that organic compounds typically denser than inorganic compounds.
  4. Learn to determine densities of pure chemicals and mixture/blends of methyl esters and diesel fuel, such as methanol, glycerol, vegetable oils, methyl esters, and diesel.
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Note for Instructor Download
Safety WARNINGS!!! Download
The entire lab book Download