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Making biodiesel from soybeans

How might we make and use renewable fuel?
Make biodiesel and create a scale model of an anaerobic digester, while investigating bioenergy and how it is produced. See teacher background →


# What is bioenergy?

Explore a list of bioenergy/biochemistry terms and topics via a web search and class discussions.


# Making biodiesel (elementary)

Learn about the history of biodiesel and make biodiesel in your classroom to determine which oil makes the best fuel.


# What is anaerobic digestion?

Complete the graphic organizer (Concept map of anaerobic digestion) after watching animations and videos about anaerobic digestion; investigate the following topics:

  1. What is anaerobic digestion?
  2. How can anerobic digestion be used to manage waste streams?
  3. How is Anaerobic Digestion an Option for Developing Countries?

Follow a procedure to construct a bench scale model of an anaerobic digester and measure the gas produced.


# Test biodiesel

Determine the quality of biodiesel by measuring its chemical properties and performance.


Teacher background

Bioenergy is a kind of renewable energy made available by converting one form of chemical energy, from a biological source, to a more usable energy. Typical biomass includes agricultural wastes, municipal sewage and solid waste, industrial and forestry wastes, animal manure and crop residues. The energy harvested from these resources can be converted into fuels such as biogas, biodiesel, and bioethanol. Because bioenergy comes from renewable sources, it will never run out. It presents a possibility for a sustainable way of providing fuel for a community. Bioenergy production yields little or no chemical pollutants, so it has minimal impact on the environment. Growing more biomass for bioenergy and consuming less fossil fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, bioenergy is usually more reliable than solar or wind energy since the energy is captured and stored in the bioenergy itself, while solar and wind energy must be stored within other media. In addition, bioenergy can be produced using organic waste material that would otherwise have to be discarded. Using organic waste to produce energy not only produces renewable energy, it reduces the cost of disposing the waste and reduces or eliminates the need for landfill of the waste. In Sweden, where anaerobic digestion is in full operation, there are no landfills.

The e-learning course Making bioenergy from biomass is a useful resource to accompany this lesson.

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Next gen science standards

Science and engineering practices

  • Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
  • Developing and using models
  • Planning and carrying out investigations
  • Analyzing and interpreting data

Crosscutting concepts

  • Systems and system models
  • Energy and matter

Disciplinary core ideas/content

  • ESS3A Natural resources
  • ESS3C Human impacts on Earth systems
  • ETS1 Engineering Design
  • ETS1B Developing possible solutions
  • ETS2A Interdependence of science, engineering and technology