Credit-Card Sized Chemical Reactor Could Lead to Distributed Biodiesel Production

This news is just about everywhere, but it’s pretty cool:

A tiny chemical reactor that can convert vegetable oil directly into biodiesel could help farmers turn some of their crops into homegrown fuel to operate agricultural equipment instead of relying on costly imported oil.

“This is all about producing energy in such a way that it liberates people,” said Goran Jovanovic, a chemical engineering professor at Oregon State University who developed the microreactor.

The device — about the size of a credit card — pumps vegetable oil and alcohol through tiny parallel channels, each smaller than a human hair, to convert the oil into biodiesel almost instantly.

By comparison, it takes more than a day to produce biodiesel with current technology.

I’d love to have some of our resident biodieselists comment on this (Ryan, you there?), but the potential for this seems enormous. I do have two questions: One (already asked by the folks at Sustainability Zone) is have they created a functioning prototype, or is this still in the development stages? Two: will this only work with virgin vegetable oil (as the article implies), or would it still allow for conversion of used cooking oil to biodiesel?

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