Steiner makes new fuel

By Ester Khatchatryan

Alex Steiner ’09 made biodiesel fuel with particular emphasis on the effects of temperature on biodiesel, the nation’s fastest growing alternative fuel industry according to the National Biodiesel Board.

“I started researching biodiesel because I was interested in doing an alternative energy research project and wanted to be able to do a project that was feasible at a high school level,” Steiner said.

After successfully making biodiesel fuel from waste peanut oil in the laboratory, Steiner expanded his research to discover ways to improve biodiesel and expand its market.

“In colder areas, biodiesel users have to dilute their biodiesel with petroleum diesel during winter months so that their cars can run properly. If people in colder areas don’t have to do this, this would lift a big obstacle in running cars on pure biodiesel,” Steiner said.

Steiner experimented with adding table salt to the biodiesel to lower the freezing temperature of the fuel. However, salt had damaging effects on the engine of a car.

Following the example of students conducting a similar study in Spain, Steiner added the compound triacetin to the biodiesel fuel. The results of the data were inconclusive.

“My conclusion is that making biodiesel perform well at lower temperatures, particularly far below zero, will be challenging. On the other hand, there is promise as the solution could be something relatively simple like using table salt as an additive,” Steiner said.