Catalysts in production of biodiesel: a review

K. Narasimharao, Adam Lee, Karen Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Biodiesel is a renewable substitute fuel for petroleum diesel fuel which is made from nontoxic, biodegradable, renewable sources such as refined and used vegetable oils and animal fats. Biodiesel is produced by transesterification in which oil or fat is reacted with a monohydric alcohol in the presence of a catalyst. The process of transesterification is affected by the mode of reaction, molar ratio of alcohol to oil, type of alcohol, nature and amount of catalysts, reaction time, and temperature. Various studies have been carried out using different oils as the raw material and different alcohols (methanol, ethanol, butanol), as well as different catalysts, notably homogeneous ones such as sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, sulfuric acid, and supercritical fluids or enzymes such as lipases. Recent research has focused on the application of heterogeneous catalysts to produce biodiesel, because of their environmental and economic advantages. This paper reviews the literature regarding both catalytic and noncatalytic production of biodiesel. Advantages and disadvantages of different methods and catalysts used are discussed. We also discuss the importance of developing a single catalyst for both esterification and transesterification reactions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-30
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biobased Materials and Bioenergy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2007


  • biodiesel
  • esterification
  • green chemistry
  • heterogeneous catalysis
  • homogeneous catalysis
  • oil
  • renewable fuels
  • transesterification
  • triglycerides


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