A critical comparison of methyl and ethyl esters production from soybean and rice bran oil in the presence of microwaves

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Transesterification of vegetable oils (from soybeans and rice bran) into methyl and ethyl esters using a batch microwave system was investigated in this study. A critical comparison between the two alcohols was performed in terms of yields, quality, and reaction kinetics. Parameters tested were temperature (60, 70 and 80°C) and time (5, 10, 15 and 20 min). At all tested conditions, more than 96% conversion rates were obtained for both ethanol and methanol. Use of microwave technology to assist the transesterification process resulted in faster reaction times and reduced catalyst requirement (about ten-fold decrease). Methanol required lower alcohol:oil ratios than normally used in conventional heating, whereas ethanol required higher molar ratios. All esters produced using this method met ASTM biodiesel quality specifications. Methanol performed better in terms of performance and costs, while ethanol may have some environmental and safety benefits.

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Bioresource technology

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