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Spring 2001

Our new oil fields
By Steve Tally


Image: Louis Cassens, Matt Peter and Rebekah Kennedy
Purdue Agriculture students (from left) Louis Cassens, Matt Peter and Rebekah Kennedy created a home heating fuel oil from soybean oil. (Photo by Tom Campbell).

This year's winning student team devised a home heating fuel oil that is cheaper and burns cleaner than regular fuel oil. Their soy heating oil mixes 20 percent soybean oil with regular fuel oil and can be used without making any changes to existing heating systems.

By learning how to work with plant oils, Tao says, students will be better positioned to help create other new products over the next 40 years.

"As we change from a black gold economy to a green gold economy, we'll need engineers who know how to make these products out of plant materials," he says. "That's why we work with these students to make these types of products now."

Chapple and Tao hasten to say that the need for petroleum is never going to go away, but instead, the ways that we use it will change. Tapping the case of his computer monitor, Tao says, "We'll be saving petroleum to make things that we can't make in any other way."

 

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