Michael J. Haas, a research biochemist at the United States Department of Agriculture has demonstrated that it is possible to turn butter and other dairy byproducts into biodiesel fuel.Â â€œIt was something we wanted to show could be done,â€ he said of his groundbreaking dairy-to-diesel research, which was published in the June issues of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Haas’ inspiration was an 800 pound sculpture of Ben Franklin and the Liberty made of butter and displayed at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, in Harrisburg. Following the show, the organizers requested suggestions for what to do with the sculptures. Haas suggested turning it into biodiesel, stating that, â€œIt had never been reported in the scientific literature.â€ The 800 pound Ben Franklin eventually yielded 75 gallons of biodiesel.
â€œRancid butter is a fat,â€ said Emily Landsburg, chief executive of BlackGold Biofuels, a Pennsylvania company that has developed a process of converting fats and oils into biofuel. The molecular structure of fats and oils consists of a tendrils of fatty acids connected to a molecule of glycerin. The biofuel conversion process replaces this glycerin molecule with a methanol molecule.
While neither Haas nor Landsburg suggest turning the United States’ one billion pounds of annual butter production into fuel, they do suggest reusing dairy farm and other agricultural waste. â€œWe took the project on as a demonstration of just how robust our technology was, that it could handle all kinds of low-grade waste,â€ Landsburg said.
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