International Biodiesel Day Date in the current year: August 10, 2024

International Biodiesel Day International Biodiesel Day is an unofficial observance held annually on August 10. It was established to commemorate the first ignition of the diesel engine that took place on this day in 1893.

Biodiesel is a form of diesel fuel consisting of long-chain fatty acid esters that are derived from animal fat or vegetable oil. It is the result of a chemical reaction named transesterification, where an ester reacts with an alcohol to produce a different ester and a different alcohol. This reaction allows to reduce the melting point of fats, as well as to increase their plasticity and resistance to oxidation. Transesterification was discovered in 1853, four decades before the invention of the diesel engine.

The diesel engine was invented by and named after Rudolf Diesel, a German inventor a mechanical engineer. He came up with the idea of creating a highly efficient engine that could work on the Carnot cycle in 1878, while studying at the Technical University of Munich, but it took him fifteen years to actually build one.

Diesel built his first prototype in the early summer of 1893 and run its for the first time on August 10, 1893. Some sources claim that the prototype used peanut oil as fuel. Although Diesel indeed was a proponent of using vegetable oil is fuel, his first engine most likely ran on petrol. However, since Diesel did consider using peanut oil, it was decided to celebrate International Biodiesel Day on August 10 to commemorate the invention of the diesel engine.

Several countries tested the use of vegetable oils as diesel fuel in the 1920s and 1930s, but these tests resulted in some operational problems due to the oils’ high viscosity. At the end of the day, it was easier to use petroleum-derived fuels.

The history of modern biodiesel began in 1977, when Brazilian engineer and inventor Expedito Parente patented the first industrial process for the production of biodiesel. In 1979, South African engineers began to research and refine the process. The first biodiesel pilot plant was build in Austria in 1987, and the first industrial-scale plant was opened by the same company two years later. During the 1990s, multiple biodiesel plants opened throughout Europe.

Today, biodiesel (pure or blended with petroleum diesel) is used in cars, trains and aircraft, as a heating fuel, in generators, and to clean oil spills (by dissolving crude oil). The main benefits of biodiesel are that it increases energy security, since it is renewable unlike petroleum diesel; helps to reduce emissions, which has a positive effect on air quality; and results in far less damage than fossil fuel if accidentally spilled or released to the environment.

International Biodiesel Day was create to promote biodiesel as a renewable and environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum-based fuel. Although biodiesel does have its flaws (for example, diverting farmland or crops for biodiesel production may affect the food supply in poor countries), the more alternative energy sources we have, the better for the environment and our future.

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International Biodiesel Day, international observances, unofficial observances, Rudolf Diesel, Expedito Parente