University of Rochester

Biodiesel Bus Takes Maiden Voyage on Rochester's River Campus

May 14, 2009

Undergraduate Project Turns Waste Vegetable Oil into Biodiesel for Shuttles

A team of University of Rochester undergraduates is putting fast food's fatty byproduct to good use for the environment with a student-led project called UR Biodiesel. Their plan is to convert excess fryer oil from Campus Dining Services into biodiesel to fuel shuttle buses. Launching its maiden voyage on Earth Day, Wednesday April 22, at 1:30 p.m., the Biodiesel Bus will depart from the Hopeman Engineering Building (a stop on the Silver Line), shuttling faculty, staff, and students to the biodiesel lab for a tour of the facility.

Team members David Borrelli '09, Dan Fink '09, and Eric Weissmann '10 designed the UR Biodiesel lab, located on Wilson Boulevard, to be both safe and sustainable. The group repurposed items from across campus to build the processor, pumps, and tanks needed for the conversion. The biodiesel produced in the lab will be blended with diesel, at a ration of 80 percent diesel, 20 percent biodiesel.

"This initiative is good in terms of the green movement," says Weissmann. "Even the bus will serve as a billboard for the University's commitment to sustainability."

While UR Biodiesel focuses heavily on green rewards, there's a significant academic component to the effort. Ben Ebenhack, senior lecturer in the Chemical Engineering department and the team's faculty advisor, allowed Borrelli and Fink to run experiments in his lab to test the science behind the biodiesel processor. Ebenhack has also encouraged students in his Energy Alternative Design Lab to take on UR Biodiesel as a class project. "Students respond enthusiastically to opportunities to apply their engineering education to real problems and issues," says Ebenhack. "To have a venue that thrusts them together to work on the technical and social aspects is very valuable."

For information on UR Biodiesel, visit Media interested in the UR Biodiesel project should call Melissa Greco Lopes at 585.314.8289.