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Optimization of process variables on two-step microwave-assisted transesterification of waste cooking oil

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Scale-up and commercialization of biodiesel is often delimited by costly feedstock that adds up to the process costs. These underlying issues demand the exploration of unconventional cheap feed to improve the process economics. Conversion of waste cooking oil (WCO) into biodiesel could reduce the process costs by 60–70%. However, the continuous exposure to heat during frying leads to oxidation as well increase in the free fatty acid (FFA) content which intensifies the time and energy required for transesterification. The present study analyzes the effect of parameters over the conversion of WCO (with 8.17% FFA) into biodiesel via two-step acid-alkali-based microwave-assisted transesterification. Response surface methodology (RSM) was used to optimize the oil:methanol volume ratio, microwave power, and reaction time during the acid-catalyzed esterification to bring down the FFA below 1%. Microwave irradiation of 250 W, with methanol:oil molar ratio of 19.57:1 [oil:methanol volume ratio of 1.31 (expressed as decimal)] and reaction time of 35 s, resulted in 0.082% of FFA. Alkali-catalyzed transesterification with methanol:oil molar ratio of 5:1 with 2% sodium hydroxide at 65 °C thereby produced fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs) with the volumetric biodiesel yield of 94.6% in 30 min. Physiochemical properties of the transesterified WCO were well comparable with the biodiesel standards. The study highlights the essentiality of multivariate optimization for the esterification process that could aid in understanding the interactive effects of variables over FFA content. Such studies would benefit in scaling up of the transesterification process at industrial level by improving the economics of the overall bioprocess.

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The authors thank the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) of Government of India (GoI) for sponsoring the fellowship of the first and second authors. The authors are thankful to the National Institute of Technology Rourkela for providing the waste cooking oil and research facilities.

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Correspondence to Balasubramanian Paramasivan.

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Supraja, K.V., Behera, B. & Paramasivan, B. Optimization of process variables on two-step microwave-assisted transesterification of waste cooking oil. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2019).

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  • Waste cooking oil
  • Biodiesel
  • Free fatty acids
  • Optimization
  • Transesterification
  • FAME