Transesterification of a vegetable oil was conducted as early as 1853 by E. Duffy and J. Patrick, four decades before the first diesel enginebecame functional. Rudolf Diesel‘s prime model, a single 10 ft (3 m) iron cylinder with a flywheel at its base, ran on its own power for the first time in Augsburg, Germany, on 10 August 1893 running on nothing but peanut oil. In remembrance of this event, 10 August has been declared “International Biodiesel Day“.
It is often reported that Diesel designed his engine to run on peanut oil, but this is not the case. Diesel stated in his published papers, “at the Paris Exhibition in 1900 (Exposition Universelle) there was shown by the Otto Company a small Diesel engine, which, at the request of the French government ran on arachide (earth-nut or pea-nut) oil (see biodiesel), and worked so smoothly that only a few people were aware of it.
The engine was constructed for using mineral oil, and was then worked on vegetable oil without any alterations being made. The French Government at the time thought of testing the applicability to power production of the Arachide, or earth-nut, which grows in considerable quantities in their African colonies, and can easily be cultivated there.”
Diesel himself later conducted related tests and appeared supportive of the idea. In a 1912 speech Diesel said, “the use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today but such oils may become, in the course of time, as important as petroleum and the coal-tar products of the present time.”
Although, petroleum based fuels were widely used during those days, the demand for vegetable oil or animal fats based diesel oils were really high. Records have shown that during the 1920s and 1930s countries like Italy, France, United Kingdom, Portugal, Germany, Argentina, Japan, Brazil and China had tested and used animal fat or vegetable oil based diesel oils which is presently known as biodiesel.
However, due to some scientific reasons those oils were no longer used. Also, these oils were poorly efficient as compared to normal petroleum based diesel oils. Thus as a tribute to our environment every year this day many NGOs and local organizations around the world conduct various activities that are beneficial for the environment.
Biodiesel refers to a vegetable oil – or animal fat-based diesel fuel consisting of long-chain alkyl (methyl, ethyl, or propyl) esters. It is typically made by chemically reacting lipids (e.g., vegetable oil, animal fat) with an alcohol producing fatty acid esters. It is meant to be used in standard diesel engines and is thus distinct from the vegetable and waste oils used to fuel converted diesel engines. Biodiesel can be used alone, or blended with petrodiesel in any proportions. Biodiesel can also be used as a low carbon alternative to heating oil.