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The glycerol challenge

18 Gorffennaf 2008

Rape seed crop

Researchers from the University are leading a £1.86M project to improve the environmental benefits and economic viability of biodiesel manufacture.

Professor Graham Hutchings and Professor David Knight, of the School of Chemistry are heading a team investigating the production of value-added chemicals derived from glycerol, a by-product of the renewable fuel source biodiesel.

Biodiesel is an alternative fuel which is helping to reduce dependence on petroleum, but as more nations substitute fossil fuels with sustainable alternatives there is a global glut in glycerol.

Currently, disposal of surplus glycerol is by incineration but the new project explores alternative approaches. Professor Graham Hutchings

Professor Hutchings said: "We are developing second-generation technologies that we hope will overcome the limitations of the present methods. We aim to make value-added molecules from glycerol, which not only has environmental benefits, but has positive implications for biodiesel manufacture and the biofuel supply chain. This research will also serve to further inform the current debate about the use and sustainability of biofuels by taking a whole life-cycle approach."

The project builds on a previous study involving the School, which identified a viable speciality chemical that could be derived from glycerol.

The new research has been part financed by the Technology Strategy Board, and Cardiff academics will work with researchers from Imperial College and Cambridge University, and in partnership Scionix Limited, Tessenderlo Fine Chemicals Ltd, Ciba UK plc, Oxford Catalysts Limited, Sasol Technology UK Ltd and Vertellus Specialties (UK) Ltd.

Explaining the Technology Strategy Board's £1m investment in the project, Lead Technologist John Whittall said: "The Technology Strategy Board invests in important research and development projects in which business and researchers work together to deliver new technology-based products and services. We are therefore delighted to support this ground-breaking project, which is an excellent example of first class collaboration between companies and academic institutions."