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Microwaves utilized to convert used motor oil into fuel

By

March 29, 2011

Scientists from the University of Cambridge have developed a system that uses microwaves t...

Scientists from the University of Cambridge have developed a system that uses microwaves to convert waste oil into vehicle fuel

It has been estimated that over 8 billion US gallons (30.3 billion liters) of used motor oil are produced every year by the world's cars and trucks. While some of that is re-refined into new oil or burned in furnaces for heat, neither of those processes are entirely environmentally-innocuous. In other cases, it is simply discarded. Today, however, researchers from the University of Cambridge announced the development of a process that uses microwaves to convert waste oil into vehicle fuel.

Scientists have already been using a process known as pyrolysis for recycling oil. It involves heating the oil to a high temperature in the absence of oxygen, and causes the oil to break down into a mixture of gases, liquids, and solids. While the gases and liquids can be converted to fuel, the Cambridge scientists state that traditional pyrolysis doesn't heat the oil very evenly, making the fuel conversion process difficult and impractical.

What they did, however, was to add a microwave-absorbent material to samples of waste oil, before subjecting it to pyrolysis by heating it with microwaves. The addition of the material caused the oil to heat more evenly, allowing almost 90 percent of it to easily be converted into a mixture of conventional gasoline and diesel.

Study leader Howard Chase, a professor of Biochemical Engineering, believes that their unique brand of pyrolysis shows great potential for being scaled up to the commercial level.

The research was presented today in Anaheim, California, at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
9 Comments

UG.. Come on .. PLEASE PUT A WARNING MESSAGE in the title.. some curious person is going to read the head line and say "let me try". There is water in the oil the oil will become hot, there are metal particles and organic debris. There is a good chance someone might put used oil in a microwave that could result in burns, harmful vapors or cause a fire.

I KNOW the microwaves they are talking about are part of the electro magnetic spectrum. That said microwaves are also a household appliance. There is a small fraction of complete idiots out there that do really stupid things.

EITHER change "microwave" to "high frequency radiation" or something similar, OR put a clear disclaimer that says "Don't Heat used motor oil in your home" or something similar.

Michael Mantion
29th March, 2011 @ 05:39 pm PDT

hope we could start makin fuel at home or even in our states from waste oil and help reduce the darn prices bloody politicians put up for the sake of fuel scarcity!!!!

Facebook User
30th March, 2011 @ 06:10 am PDT

Well Michael, given the comment of "Facebook User' I guess you are right.

Page Schorer
30th March, 2011 @ 09:40 am PDT

Even 8 billion gallons of waste oil would only supply about 3 weeks of fuel nation-wide.Oh well,every little bit helps,I guess.

michael_dowling
30th March, 2011 @ 11:46 am PDT

The important thing about this is that pyrolisis can be used to produce fuel from Oil, plastic and even old rubber tyres.

Rubbish doesn't need to be a burden. It should be seen as a resource.

Sorting and then reusing it isn't the best option.

A short thermal shock breaks most complex packaging down to its parts.

This is just another method.

China and India already see it like that, and western countries pay them to take it away.

Two Ugandian fly tippers have started making fuel from plastic/rubber rubbish and are selling it at a profit.

You just have to think outside the standard box.

Facebook User
30th March, 2011 @ 02:30 pm PDT

Yeah, but how much electricity does it take to heat up the used motor oil to the proper temperature for the reaction to take place, and of course the other costs involved such as transporting the stuff at each end of the process as well as all of the other stuff in between?? Methinks we're looking at a false economy here. But hey, just apply for a government subsidy by making the conversion plant minority/female owned!!

Randy

Expanded Viewpoint
30th March, 2011 @ 07:47 pm PDT

Mike, if someone is that stupid as to try something like you described that person should always have adult supervision. Just think of it a cleaning up the gene pool. It sounds great let's get some investors, pay off some politicians and get going. If the Administration won't let us drill let's reuse what we got.

Cmdrdpaul
30th March, 2011 @ 08:34 pm PDT

Experimentation at the home garage level has sparked thousands of ideas and created whole industries. Not all "out of the box" free thinkers are stupid! I personally have done dozens of alt-energy experiments without blowing myself up or creating by-products that are only capable of being handled by "hazmat" bio-suit! You know what they say..necessity is the mother of invention. I love experimenting but also protecting my surrounding environment for myself and posterity! There has always been that part of experimenting that could be dangerous. Just use the common sense that God gave us all. We don't need more of the "nanny state" protecting us from ourselves! And for those too stupid to do it right, as Cmdrdpaul said, "just think of it as cleaning up the gene pool!" Adult supervision? Come on Cmdrdpaul!

Will, the tink
25th February, 2012 @ 06:16 pm PST

this is very good technology but the gasoline and diesel should keep their carbon and hydrogen standard.

Omer Jama
16th May, 2013 @ 02:50 am PDT
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