Loyola University Chicago

School of Environmental Sustainability

From Pollution to Possibility: A Sustainable and Interdisciplinary Solution to Biodiesel Production Wastewater

Project Summary: An emerging global water crisis is compounding the stresses that a changing climate is exerting on human and natural communities. As concerned citizens, educators, and members of a university committed to excellence in research, values-based leadership, and service to humanity, we are compelled to address the climate change and freshwater crises.

Objective: Building on the scientific and educational successes achieved in Phase I, we will implement a three-branched Phase-II project focused on design, scientific experimentation, and outreach education. The project will consist of 1) designing a small-scale, affordable, and effective, solar-powered methanol recovery unit and building several prototypes; 2) continuing development of biological, non-toxic, and carbon emissions-reducing treatments for biodiesel waste through adaptive scientific experimentation and design, with the goal of launching a 0-waste, biodiesel production and waste-management system in year 2 and; 3) conducting outreach education consisting of a) developing and introducing high-school science curricula based on project outcomes, b) publishing research results and designs, and c) distributing published materials and conducting outreach to small-scale biodiesel producers throughout North America.

Approach and Expected Results:

  • Goal 1) Achieve the ultimate biodiesel sustainability goal, zero-waste biodiesel production. We will evaluate our success by monitoring all energy and material inputs and outputs through our system.
  • Goal 2) Design, build, test, and publish plans for a small-scale solar methanol recovery (SMR) unit for education, research, and biodiesel producers.
  • Goal 3) Using the SMR unit as a teaching tool, create hands-on high school science curricula demonstrating environmental and physical science concepts and introduce the curricula in 5 high schools.
  • Goal 4) Complete research on hydroponic growth of Salicornia for salinity reduction and additional oil production.
  • Goal 5) Build a production-scale hydroponic desalination living system and incorporate it into our closed-loop biodiesel production process.
  • Goal 6) Develop a co-product for the re-use of residual free-fatty-acids by conducting experimental acid-catalyzed biodiesel production, biogas production through anaerobic digestion, and candle production.
  • Goal 7) Host a conference at LUC for the Collegiate Biodiesel Producers Network, and evaluate its success by conducting post-conference member surveys.

Investigator(s): PI: David Crumrine PhD and Major Co-Investigators: Shane Lishawa MS, Lane Vail MS, Zach Waickman MBA, Sarah McDowell

Project Period: August 15, 2013 to August 14, 2015