Characterizing sunflower oil biodiesel blends as alternatives to fossil diesel

Daniel M. Madyira, Zanele Nkomo, Esther T. Akinlabi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This paper reports on investigation into the feasibility of using sunflower oil based biodiesel blends as alternatives to fossil diesel fuel. The current global reliance on fossil fuels is coming to an end. This is driven on one hand by the dwindling global fossil fuel reserves and the understanding of the consequences of carbon accumulation in the atmosphere on the other. Dwindling reserves continue to drive global fuel prices upwards with negative effects on economic performance. Continued accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is perceived to be responsible for the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) effect. This dual problem can be addressed by using alternative renewable fuel sources, which guarantee continued supply while maintaining global carbon neutrality. Biofuels are now largely recognized as viable options. Some of the challenges of using biodiesel in conventional diesel engines are their low density, which leads to low calorific value and acidity levels that threatens the structural integrity of the engine. Blending biodiesel with petroleum diesel can mitigate these effects and lead to better performing fuels. Fuel characterization is therefore essential to establishing notable similarities and differences between biodiesel and fossil diesel, and in determining optimum blending proportions for more effective use of biodiesels. In this investigation, biodiesel was produced from commercial sunflower cooking oil using the batch trans-esterification process with methanol in the presence of Sodium hydroxide catalyst. The characterization of the biodiesel was then conducted using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), bomb calorimetry, acidity and flash point analysis, sulphur content tests and Gas Chromatography (GC). Blends ranging between 5% and 50% biodiesel concentration in Ultra-Low Sulphur Diesel (ULSD), in increments of 5% were analyzed. Results obtained confirmed that biodiesel has lower calorific value than ULSD, implying higher fuel consumption. The high flash point, almost at a temperature twice as high as that of ULSD, though advantageous for storage and transportation, results in poor ignition. The results also suggest that an increase in concentration of biodiesel leads to larger difference in properties between the blend and the ULSD. The pH value of biodiesel was found to be lower than that of ULSD which compromises engine structural integrity. Biodiesel's chain length was found to contain an average of 19 carbons which makes it a viable option when compared to ULSD. Despite the relatively inferior properties measured, biodiesel still remains one of the most attractive fuel options.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the World Congress on Engineering 2012, WCE 2012
EditorsA. M. Korsunsky, Len Gelman, Andrew Hunter, S. I. Ao, David WL Hukins
PublisherNewswood Limited
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)9789881925220
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Event2012 World Congress on Engineering, WCE 2012 - London, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Jul 20126 Jul 2012

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Engineering and Computer Science
ISSN (Print)2078-0958


Conference2012 World Congress on Engineering, WCE 2012
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Biodiesel blends
  • Fossil diesel
  • Sunflower oil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)


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