Freshman Scholars Program 2012

Production and Analysis of Biodiesel and Development of Chemical Demonstrations for Use in General Chemistry

Instructor:  Maria Puccio, Ph.D.


Project Description:

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 cafeteria. 


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 at MPuccio@ferrum.edu.

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