Drs. Richard Parnas (Chemical, Materials & Biomolecular Engineering) and James Stuart (Chemistry) presented two workshops in January before audiences of high school chemistry instructors, at the request of the New England Association of Chemistry Teachers. The visitors, from schools across Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, were introduced to the production and testing methods for biofuel processing using spent cooking oil.
Dr. Parnas, director of the University’s Biofuel Consortium and a member of the Polymer Program, said 20 teachers and five other attendees participated in the workshops to learn how they may construct small-scale demonstration reactors or integrate a learning module on biofuels into their chemistry lab courses.
The Biofuel Consortium comprises students and professors across the University who share an interest in stimulating a biofuels industry within the state. In the consortium laboratory, researchers convert waste cooking oil collected from UConn dining facilities into clean-running fuel for the University’s campus bus fleet. The team seeks to develop a large-scale reactor, and to introduce process improvements and alternative feedstocks aimed at making the process more cost-efficient.
During the sessions, Dr. Stuart demonstrated the core ASTM tests – including chromatography, cloud point, flash point, acid number and viscosity metrics – used to assess biodiesel quality. Undergraduate Chemical Engineering students Steve Unker and Alyssa Midgette assisted in the presentations and laboratory demonstrations.