Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions

New Fuels: Biofuels: Alligator fat as a new source
of biodiesel fuel

October 24, 2011

Alligator

Alligator fat could provide a new source
of biodiesel fuel.
Credit: iStock

Summary

Amid growing concern that using soybeans and other
food crops to produce biodiesel fuel will raise the price
of food, scientists have identified a new and unlikely
raw material for the fuel: Alligator fat. Their report
documenting gator fat’s suitability for biofuel
production appears in ACS’ journal Industrial &
Engineering Chemistry Research
.

Amid growing concern that using soybeans and other food crops to produce biodiesel fuel will raise the price of food, scientists have been looking for alternatives. In their search, Rakesh Bajpai and colleagues at the University of Louisiana have discovered a surprising new source: Alligator fat. Bajpai explains.

“Soybean oil was a major source of about 700 million gallons of biodiesel produced in the United States in 2008. The search for non-food sources of biodiesel already has identified a number of unlikely candidates, including spent oil from deep fryers in fast-food restaurants and sewage. As we studied the problem, we realized that alligator fat could join that list.”

The team found that there are abundant amounts of this fat and that they are not used.

“Each year, the alligator meat industry produces about 15 million pounds of alligator fat, most of which lands in landfills. We thought that creating biofuel from this fat would be an excellent way to put it to good use.”

As the team explored using this fat, they showed through laboratory experiments that oil extracted oil from alligator fat can easily be converted into biodiesel.

“The oil actually was more suitable for biodiesel production that oil from some other animal fats. The gator biodiesel was similar in composition to biodiesel from soybeans, and met nearly all of the official standards for high quality biodiesel fuel.”

Smart Chemists/Innovative Thinking

Smart chemists. Innovative thinking. That’s the key to solving global challenges of the 21st Century. Please check out more of our full-length podcasts on wide-ranging issues facing chemistry and science, such as promoting public health, developing new fuels and confronting climate change, at www.acs.org/GlobalChallenges Today’s podcast was written by Michael Bernstein. I’m Adam Dylewski at the American Chemical Society in Washington.

Rakesh Bajpai, Ph.D.
Rakesh Bajpai, Ph.D.,
University of Louisiana, at Lafayette,
Lafayette, Louisiana