Science in Schools - biofuels workshop
Science in Schools - biofuels workshop ©

British Council France

Diesel engines are compression-ignition engines developed by Rudolph Diesel. They were originally designed to run on peanut oil, not mineral diesel. Biodiesel is a fuel for conventional diesel engines made from plant or animal oils.


This unit provides opportunities for your students to learn about the importance of sustainable development and the ideas underpinning biodiesel production. They will carry out research about this topic and observe and take part in experiments to turn recycled vegetable fats into oil and potatoes into plastic.

What is biodiesel?

Biodiesel is a fuel for conventional diesel engines made from plant or animal oils that have been chemically altered to alkyl esters. Diesels have been made which run on milk powder, coal dust and straight vegetable oil. Biodiesel can be made from a very wide range of ‘feed stocks’. These can be animal fats and tallows, or vegetable oils. Algae can even be used. We can also make biodiesel from waste vegetable oil from deep fryers.

How can biofuel be made from used cooking oil?

Normally, straight vegetable oil is too viscous to be used in a modern diesel engine. We can chemically transform waste vegetable oil from deep fryers to make it thinner using a process called titration so that the fuel is compatible with modern conventional engines.


  • To provide students with background knowledge and vocabulary associated with the production and use of biofuels in the UK and Europe.
  • To engage in collaborative research practice.
  • To carry out practical experiments.

Age range:


Curriculum Links:

Science (Chemistry), English, Environmental Geography

Preparation needed:

You will need:

  • A set of information cards and worksheets for each group, scissors, envelopes.
  • Materials and laboratory equipment to carry out experiments (see instructions below) slides, laptop, projector.

You will need to:

  • Photocopy and cut out the card sets and place in envelopes.
  • Photocopy the worksheets for activity 1 – one copy per group or pair.