Production and Analysis of Biodiesel and Development of Chemical Demonstrations for
Use in General Chemistry
Instructor: Maria Puccio, Ph.D.
Up to two students interested in chemistry or general sciences.
Biodiesels are an increasingly attractive alternative to gasoline and diesel fuels
because they are a carbon neutral renewable resource that can be easily incorporated
into the current fuel transportation infrastructure. They have properties similar
to diesel fuel, and biodiesel blends can be used in current internal combustion engines
with little to no modification. Algae are an excellent source of biodiesel fuel.
Over half of algae’s weight, by composition, is lipid oil, which can be converted
into biodiesel through transesterification. Algae are easy to grow; all they need
is sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. Algae require less space to cultivate than
other potential biodiesel crops, helping to ease competition with food crops for land.
This research focuses on studying the properties of biodiesel fuels produced from
different strains of algae, with the hope that one day biodiesels may help to reduce
or replace dependence on petroleum products. In the two-week Freshman Scholar’s project,
the student(s) will aid in developing a method for the production and analysis of
biodiesels prepared from various oils, including waste vegetable oil from the college’s
Maria Puccio, Ph.D.
Dr. Maria Puccio grew up in a small city just south of Richmond, VA. She attended
Longwood College for her undergraduate work and received her Ph.D. in Chemistry in
2010 from George Washington University. She has taught CHM 101 Fundamentals of Inorganic
Chemistry, CHM 103/104 General Chemistry I and II, and CHM 305 Analytical Chemistry,
and she plans to teach CHM 341 Physical Chemistry in the Fall.
If you have specific questions about this project, please contact Dr. Puccio directly