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Development of an analytical procedure for in situ determination of free glycerol in biodiesel (Master Thesis)

Development of an analytical procedure for in situ determination of free glycerol in biodiesel


Biodisel can be obtained from renewable sources by trans-esterification of vegetable oils or animal fats, producing alkyl esters of fatty acids and glycerol as side product. Glycerol need to be removed for commercialization of the biofuel, because high concentrations can damage motors, and produce highly toxic gases during combustion. The objective of this study was to develop a procedure for in situ analysis of free glycerol in biodiesel samples employing a single-phase system. Procedures for in situ analysis show advantages such as fast response in monitoring of industrial processes, avoiding the need for reprocessing of a production batch, or for screening of samples during field inspections, thus allowing fast decisions as well as reduction of the number of samples sent to a more detailed laboratory analysis. The in situ analysis requires practical, fast, and robust procedures, which uses stable and low toxicity reagents, and presents potential for use of portable instruments. The developed procedure is based on glycerol oxidation by periodate, which yields formaldehyde, formic acid and iodate. Formaldehyde reacts with acetylacetone in an ammoniacal medium, forming the 3,5-diacetyl-1,4-dihydrolutidine (Hantzsch's reaction). This compound can be quantified by spectrophotometry with maximum absorption at 410 nm. The analyte extraction, usually employed in previously proposed procedures, was avoided. The biodiesel samples were 10-fold diluted in anhydrous ethanol. In order to accelerate the reaction, the flasks were heated at 50 °C for 10 minutes. The final solution should contain at least 75% ethanol to ensure the formation of a single phase before the spectrophotometric measurements. A linear response was observed from 40 to 400 mg kg-1 of glycerol (A = 0.0018 C + 0.0204, r2 = 0.999, in which C is the concentration of glycerol in mg kg-1). The detection limit was estimated at 2.0 mg kg-1 (99.7% confidence level, n = 10)and the coefficient of variation was 2.1% (n = 10). The proposed procedure was applied to biodiesel samples from different oil sources and the results agreed with the reference procedure at the 95% confidence level.


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