The future of bioenergy has come a long way since they produced Back to The Future 2 in 1989. Back then, they fictionalized the concept of putting waste products into some kind of futuristic "bioenergy converter" to power the vehicle's engine.
No, we can't put garbage into our fuel tanks yet to power our vehicles. But we have come a long way in the evolution of biofuels as scientists and engineers can now create crystal clear biodiesel from a variety of discarded cooking oils and even animal fat. One of the terms they use for this process is working with flexible feedstocks.
So why go to all the trouble, technology and expense to make biodiesel when we can get it from crude oil refineries? Experts say there's plenty of good reasons beyond the obvious reason that it makes good sense for the Planet to take waste products and recycle them into a beneficial product. Plus, biodiesel is nontoxic, is free of aromatics, increases engine "lubricity" (watch the video to learn more about that one) and yields 92% of the energy of hydrocarbon-based diesel fuel.
One of the prime feedstocks they use in making biodiesel just happens to be one of the co-products they produce from making ethanol, another form of bioenergy - DCO or distiller's corn oil. Pretty cool loop when you think about it. So really, animal fat derived from animals eating plant (corn) carbohydrates, used cooking grease (that probably contains corn oil) and distiller's corn oil all connect with renewable corn crops grown in America's heartland.
To really decode the science behind this biodiesel production, have your teacher download the discussion guide and lesson activities below for hours of peer-driven learning in your classroom with your peeps. You can also learn lots more by reading the advanced information in the Learn More section below by clicking on the icon.
To learn about the production of ethanol, another important biofuel, explore our videos and lessons ethanol. You’ll find them in the Energy Category on the Home page.
For fun, also take a moment and check out the jazzed bioenergy industry careers video on the right. Then, click the link of our educational partner here to dig even deeper into the science of biodiesel production.