Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Mechanical Engineering

Major Professor

Daniel Hess, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Muhammad Rahman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Stuart Wilkinson, Ph.D.


ASTM D6751, brown grease, ultrasonic, cavitation, biodiesel, FFA


Energy and vegetable oil prices have caused many biodiesel producers to turn to waste cooking oils as feedstocks. These oils contain high levels of free fatty acids (FFAs) which make them difficult or impossible to convert to biodiesel by conventional production methods. Esterification is required for ultra-high FFA feedstocks such as Brown Grease. In addition, ultrasonic irradiation has the potential to improve the kinetics of the esterification reaction. 2-level, multi-factor DOE experiments were conducted to characterize the esterification reaction in ultra-high FFA oils as well as determine whether ultrasonic irradiation gives any benefit besides energy input. The study determined that sulfuric acid content had the greatest effect followed by temperature and water content (inhibited reaction). Methanol content had no effect in the range studied. A small interaction term existed between sulfuric acid and temperature. The study also concluded that sonication did not give any additional benefit over energy input.