The search for alternative fuels to gasoline has led to surprising possibilities—for instance, the waste oil from making French fries. But one of the most unusual alternative fuel candidates might be chicken fat. Yes, chicken fat, also called schmaltz. So if you make chicken soup you might have a valuable resource in your kitchen—besides the actual soup.
Chemical engineers at the University of Arkansas report that when chicken fat is combined with methanol under very high temperatures and pressure (known as supercritical conditions) they got biodiesel. The method converted 89 percent of the chicken fat to biodiesel. The research was done as part of a master’s thesis project by chemical engineering student Brent Schulte.
Many people have high hopes for biodiesel as a replacement for fossil fuels, because it uses renewable resources such as plant oils, or in this case chicken fat, of which there is certainly no shortage. The hunt for biodiesel may mostly take place outdoors. But the potential of French fry flotsam and chicken fat also means the search can sometimes end in the kitchen.
—Steve Mirsky, with reporting by Harvey Black