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Drive for a greener future

30 Ebrill 2007

The School of Chemistry is working with industry to find valuable uses for a major by-product of the renewable fuel source biodiesel.

Biodiesel is an alternative fuel which is helping to reduce dependence on petroleum. One concern regarding its production is what to do with the major by-product, glycerol.

There is a global glut of glycerol as industrialised nations move to substitute fossil fuels with more sustainable alternatives. Glycerol production in the United States already averages more than 350,000 tons per year and in Europe production has tripled within the last ten years. Currently disposal of surplus glycerol is by incineration.

Now researchers in the School of Chemistry working with Vertellus Specialities UK Ltd, a global supplier of chemical specialties, have won a grant to investigate the possibility of converting glycerol to high-added value speciality chemicals. The £60,000 project, with £40,000 financial support from the Department of Trade and Industry-led Technology Programme will allow the research team, led by Professor Graham Hutchings, School of Chemistry and Brian Tarbit, Vertellus Specialities, to ultimately improve the environmental benefits and economic viability of biodiesel manufacture.

Science and Innovation Minister, Malcolm Wicks said: "The UK has a proud history of innovation in science and technology. We believe that we must work with industry to develop the marketable products and services of tomorrow, so that we can maintain our position as a leading global economy.

"That’s why we’re supporting this project to find valuable uses for glycerol, a major by-product of the renewable fuel source biodiesel. It provides a great opportunity to harness the UK’s world-class expertise."

Dr David Grant, Vice-Chancellor Cardiff University said: "I’m delighted that Cardiff’s leading expertise in chemistry is being directed at such an industrially important topic. Several other companies have expressed interest in supporting this important research and I look forward to announcing further success later this year."

The award will allow the team to assemble a bid for the £10M Zero Emission Enterprise competition as part of the Department of Trade and Industry-led Technology Programme.