It’s not a Monty Python skit, it’s real. Scientists at the University of Cambridge have come up with a way to repurpose used motor oil into a usable fuel using microwaves, potentially converting the 8 billion gallons of oil discarded last year alone into a useful commodity, instead of a nasty waste product.
Unlike Valvoline’s recent efforts to re-use old oil, the Cambridge team adds a microwave-absorbent (MA) material to samples of waste oil, before subjecting them to a process called pyrolysis (which involves heating oil in the absence of oxygen, and causes the oil to break down into gases, liquids, and solids) by heating it with microwaves. The group’s addition of the MA material allows the oil more even heating of the oil, allowing more precise “tinkering” of the process – to the point that nearly 90 percent of the oil can be converted into conventional gasoline and diesel.
The research was presented last month at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, California … and, for the record, kiddies: don’t try this at home. Even if it works in your mom’s Amana radio range, the best case scenarios all involve boiling gasoline splashing all over your kitchen.