Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

M. Eng.


Chemical Engineering

Committee Chair

Carreon, Moises A.

Author's Keywords

Catalysis; ZnO; Biodiesel; Reaction kinetics; Nanostructures


Biodiesel fuels--Refining; Nanostructures; Olive oil


The motivation to determine a viable alternative to petroleum based energy has risen in recent years due to increased greenhouse gas emissions, environmental pollution, and the fear of exhausting oil and natural gas reserves. Biodiesel derived from the transesterification of vegetable oils or animal fats has emerged as a viable alternative to petroleum diesel. However, for this to become an option available to the average consumer it is vital to find an effective catalyst. Metal oxides have emerged as potential heterogeneous catalysts. ZnO in particular is attractive because it is abundant. The use of nanostructures has been shown to improve the catalytic performance of ZnO. ZnO nanorods were synthesized using a solution approach. The crystalline structure, morphology, and surface area were confirmed using XRD, SEM, and BET surface area respectively. The characterized nanorods were used as catalysts for the production of biodiesel. The nanorods achieved conversions of 94.8% at 150ºC for reaction times of eight hours. They also demonstrated better catalytic performance, attributed to their increased degree of crystallinity, than conventional ZnO. A kinetic study at 150ºC to determine the reaction rate parameters was also conducted. Due to the presence of three distinct phases in the reaction, initially the reaction rate is dominated by mass transfer limitations. However, these are eventually overcome and the reaction proceeds with a pseudo-first order with respect to the oil and a reaction rate constant of 0.5136 h-1.