Departments Collaborate on Bio-Fuel

Grant Chudler, Staff Writer

Autoshop classes will be creating “bio-fuel” over the next year, and science classes will use the fuel as a teaching opportunity. Video student Vikram Bhaduri will be documenting the making of the fuel and its use in classrooms.

“My plan is to integrate it with my AP chemistry students in May after the AP exam. The plan is that my students will be able to test the bio-fuel for its purity or effectiveness through various chemical tests,” chemistry teacher Rachel Eaton said.

Possible projects include conducting a titration of the bio-fuel, according to Eaton.

Eaton believes the project will show students a real world application of chemistry, and will demonstrate the application of a process that could benefit the environment.

Video teacher Justin Seligman said Bhaduri decided to document the production of the biodiesel because he is interested in documentary film making. According to Seligman,  Bhaduri believes the bio-fuel is “a story worth telling.”

The machinery and supplies needed to make the bio-fuel required funding. Seligman said the Campolindo High Parents Club Grant funded the machinery needed to make the bio-fuel. The fuel will be made from vegetable oil waste, which is difficult to obtain. Bently Bio-Fuels, a waste oil collection agency, will provide it.

The diesel will be made using the recently purchased machinery in the auto shop classroom. “The processors come with a manual… that describes the process,” Seligman said.

Seligman said the fuel is a diesel product that can be burned in diesel engine vehicles and is made in a chemical reaction using waste products. He said “any car with a diesel engine,” runs on the bio-fuel. This includes some Mercedes, Volkswagen, trucks, and construction vehicles.

Seligman described the economic benefits of making bio-diesel. “[The diesel] costs about 55 cents a gallon to produce, and diesel goes up for about $4.50 a gallon, so there is some economic gain to it.,” he explained.

Auto shop teacher Steve Boone came up with the idea of making the fuel at Campolindo. “He teaches at both schools, and they were already making bio-diesel at Las Lomas so he suggested we make it here as well,” said Seligman.

Acalanes’ biotech teacher Ben Madsen has expressed an interest in organizing a similar program, if all goes well at Campolindo.