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Peter Said,
November 30th, 2010 @11:48 pm  

Hmm. I don’t think coconuts are nearly oily enough to produce biodiesel from in any meaningful quantity. The chemical reaction requires the esterification of lipids, which coconuts are likely lacking. Unless you have the facilities to produce coconut oil (in which case you’d follow the same procedure as using vegetable oil) you’re out of luck.

What you would be much better off doing is fermenting the coconuts (which are high in sugar, and fermenting turns sugar into ethanol) to produce ethanol (ie, turning them into an alcoholic sludge) then distilling the fermented mash into 95% pure ethanol. This can then be run in most gasoline engines with little to no modification or mixed with gasoline to produce a very high-octane fuel that can be used in all gasoline vehicles.

The process is fairly straightforward, but it unfortunately is the exact same process that is used to make moonshine (illegally-distilled whiskey – drinking alcohol IS exactly the same as ethanol). Because of this, this can be illegal in your area if you don’t follow the proper laws. Most countries now allow private citizens to apply for a permit allowing the construction and operation of the proper equipment. In the US, you’ll contact the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) to get the permits. If you live in another country, you’ll need to contact the equivalent agency (usually the same one that handles taxes, as in almost all countries alcohol is a tax thing).

Assuming you won’t run into legal issues, here’s your basic process:

1) Mash the coconuts down to a paste, then mix it with warm water and baking yeast in a carboy or other vessel with a one-way release valve. You’ll want a large amount of this (about 5 or 6 times the volume of high purity ethanol you want to produce). Leave it for a week and you should end up with a sludge (a "wash") that’s about 10-15% alcohol by volume (ABV).

2) You’ll need to build a device for distilling the alcohol into 95% pure ethanol. This is called a "still," and many different types exist.

The basic theory is this: water evaporates at 100 degrees celsius but ethanol evaporates at 79 degrees celsius. If you can boil off only the ethanol, you can collect the vapors and recondense them into a liquid, giving you a much higher purity. The most basic design is called a pot still, which consists of a closed chamber with a pipe coming off the top running into a coiled loop in a bucket of icewater. The wash is placed into the chamber, heated to 79 degrees, before being cooled by the icewater back into a liquid.

Unfortunately, this method will only give us a 60% coconut whiskey, which is probably wicked awesome if you want to get wasted, but will destroy your engine if you try to use it as fuel. What you need to build is a special type of still called a fractionating column which distills it multiple times in a single run, giving you a 95% pure ethanol. This website explains the theory really well as well as providing plans for building a still, albeit from a drinking alcohol perspective (however it will still make fuel):

3) Now that you have your still, simply run your fermented coconut mash though the still and end up with 95% ethanol fuel. Verify the ABV with a hydrometer. It’s ready for your gas tank now.

Whew, now that wasn’t so hard, was it?

(Now I’d better get best answer after all that typing).
References :

Breath on the Wind Said,
December 1st, 2010 @12:34 am  

First you hav to obtain the oil from the coconut. Here is how to obtain the coconut oil: http://central-america-forum.com/forum-topic/how-make-virgin-coconut-oil

Next you have to convert the vegetable oil to bio diesel. This process is called transesterification and it removes the soap from the oil. Typically it involves the use of methanol. on a small scale basis the automotive gas additive "dry gas" is methanol. Here is a simple method: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_oil

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