Biological resources are abundant in developing countries in the tropic regions. Such resources found are biomass and oil seeds, however, these resources are not being used to their maximum efficiency due to the fact they do not have the industrial means to utilize them. Although seed oil is easily acquired in the tropics and is the main ingredient in biodiesel, additional raw materials like ethanol or methanol and a base catalyst like sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide are needed in the production of biodiesel. Industry-grade compounds are typically not available to the rural areas in Africa. From this comes our motivation for this project to use only local resources to extract methanol, make lye, and use seed oil to produce biodiesel, and to also take advantage of the byproducts by either recycling them back in to the process or producing useful substances i.g. soap. So, methods for extracting methanol and obtaining oil are available, but a base catalyst (potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide) is still needed in order to make biodiesel. Again, we can look to preindustrial times and see that chemicals could be extracted from wood ash for making soap. These also happen to be the same chemicals that we need to produce biodiesel. Therefore, by integrating destructive distillation to recover methanol and the hydroxide extraction from wood ash from readily available materials into the biodiesel manufacturing process, an innovative, low cost biodiesel processor (less than $100) can be constructed for use in the developing world aiding them in becoming more self-sufficient. The process not only has to be low cost, but must be simple and easy enough for people with little to no formal education to understand and operate independently.
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These two process can improve the every day life of those in rural regions of third world countries. This past summer my research team and I had the opportunity to travel to Cameroon, Africa to build these processes. This village does not have the resources that many Americas have readily available. Each process would provide fuel for cooking, running generators, or for fueling a basic utility vehicles. These processes use waste products such as oils or scrap wood to yield biodiesel or biochar. Not only do the processes provide fuel, but byproducts such as pesticides for crops or glycerin. These processes are completely renewable and requiring no electricity or moving parts. The most innovative part of this idea is that it enhances the everyday life of those living in third world countries.
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