Utah State team sets new speed record on waste-based biodiesel

By Ron Kotrba | September 19, 2012

A team of faculty and students from Utah State University set a land speed record this month in a student-built car run on biodiesel fuel also produced by the students. The team, from the Colleges of Science, Engineering and Agriculture at USU, performed at the World of Speed event at the Bonneville Salt Flats Speedway in Utah.

The car was driven by Michael R. Morgan—an undergraduate biochemistry major at USU, director of the Student Prototype Laboratory and project initiator—who completed two passes on the course using petroleum, followed by a run on waste-derived B100.

“The class we ran at Bonneville in was the Diesel Streamliner with an engine size of 60 cubic inches (I class),” said Prof. Lance Seefeldt from the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, a team co-leader along with Prof. Bruce Bugbee from the Plants, Soils and Climate Department and Prof. Byard Wood, head of the Mechanical, Aerospace and Engineering Department. “There was no standing record in that class when we arrived at Bonneville for the World of Speed event Sept. 8-11. We made two passes with an average speed of 64.4 miles per hour using No. 2 diesel, as required by the sponsoring organization, officially setting the record. We came back the same day and backed up our record using our yeast-derived biodiesel.”

Seefeldt told Biodiesel Magazine that the yeast-derived biodiesel is made from the liquid waste coming from the cheese-making industry. “These are oleaginous yeast that upgrade the sugars in the waste to triglycerides,” he said. “We convert the triglycerides using a patent-pending process to fatty acid methyl esters. We ran this B100 in the streamliner to back up our record and it performed wonderfully. We have done extensive testing of the fuel, including performance in a dnyo and emissions, and it matches the properties of soybean B100.”

Utah Chassis and Mott Motorsports assisted the USU team complete production of the streamliner with a one-liter, two-cylinder diesel engine.

Engine improvements, better aerodynamics and new biofuels made from microalgae and yeast are in store for next year’s event.

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