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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

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Abstract Volume 14 Issue 3 (2009) pp 98-104

Microwave Assisted Synthesis of Biodiesel in an Undergraduate Organic Chemistry Laboratory Course

Tyson A. Miller* and Nicholas E. Leadbeater

Department of Chemistry, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269-3060,
Received January 6, 2008 Accepted May 16, 2009.

Published online: 6 June 2009

Abstract. Engineering students in a one-semester organic chemistry laboratory course prepared biodiesel by using either microwave or conventional heating in a discovery-based experiment. The laboratory design was to show improvement in student awareness about the use of microwave heating in organic synthesis in general, and specifically in the preparation of biodiesel. The students were polled before and after the laboratory class on their knowledge in the areas of biofuels and microwave heating as a tool for preparative chemistry. From experience in the lab, students demonstrated increased learning regarding microwave energy (theory, its use, how it heats a reaction) and biodiesel (concepts, reaction, synthesis, NMR). Studentsí performance on the post-laboratory assessment did not statistically improve in the areas of biodiesel definition, biodiesel physical properties, and reaction mechanism, in spite of perception.

Key Words: Laboratories and Demonstrations; organic chemistry; interdisciplinary/ multidisciplinary; organic synthesis; microwave; biodiesel; biofuel; esters; esterification; transesterification; NMR spectroscopy; laboratory instruction

(*) Corresponding author. (E-mail:

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Issue date: June 6, 2009

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