Worcester Polytechnic Institute using food waste to make renewable diesel

September 22, 2022 |

In Massachusetts, an interdisciplinary team of researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute is looking at ways to use food waste to make a renewable and more affordable fuel replacement for oil-based diesel. The work, led by Chemical Engineering Professor Michael Timko, is detailed in a new paper in the journal iScience. 

The work is part of a multi-year project funded by the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, and it builds on and refines research previously published in 2018. Timko and his team have now focused on finding a way to make the conversion process easier to scale and bring to the commercial market. 

To make the fuel, the researchers employed a process called hydrothermal liquefaction, which uses heat and water to break down the food waste into a liquid. It’s a method that has been used widely in converting other materials into biofuel, including algae. However, using food waste removes the need to grow and cultivate algae—an expensive and time-consuming process—while also leading to similar results for the amount of fuel that is extracted. The team also used a catalyst made of a naturally occurring mineral found in bones to get as much as 30% more energy out of the food waste. 

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Category: Research

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