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University of Balamand > Spotlights > Jad Touma


Jad Touma

Transforming Cafeteria Waste ​into Biofuel

Jad Touma has his eyes on the food in the cafeteria. Don’t get him wrong, he likes it. But the Chemical Engineering undergraduate also has other plans for it; he is in the process of transforming waste oils and fat from the Balamand cafeteria and surrounding restaurants into biofuel, to power the University buses.

Soon enough, the Balamand bus you will be riding may be powered by leftovers from the cafeteria.

“The project started following a class lecture by Dr. Henry El Zakhem in which he motivated us to propose new ideas related to our field of study,” says Jad. Dr. Zakhem is head of the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Jad had read that cities like New York and Kyoto were collecting oils from restaurants and converting them to biofuel to reduce pollution, so soon enough he was researching the subject to see if it could also be applied locally.

“I became very interested in the idea and was determined to carry on with the project, although I knew very little about the whole process. The first step consisted of collecting all the information I could get online.”

When Jad presented his idea to Dr. Zakhem he was “delighted with the support” he received. So he proceeded. With the help of colleagues, Jad collected all the equipment and chemicals needed to produce the first batch of biodiesel (biofuel + diesel) at the University. This was in March of 2012.

However, Jad had bigger plans. He wanted to design and build a pilot plant, able to produce batches of approximately 60 liters of biofuel, and to do so he felt he had to study the process in greater detail.

“This was the most important part. To scale up the project, I had to do an extensive literature review covering all the processes involved – this included filtering, esterification, transesterification, Liq-Liq extraction, distillation and so forth.”

So, some 200 research papers, several experiments and many questions later, he was able to present the project last May, detailing all aspects of the process, and the initial reactor design. He is currently working with Dr. Samer Aouad on research papers aimed at developing the production process, and is expecting, or hoping, for the go ahead to start building the pilot plant.

The advantage of biofuels is that they are environmentally friendly, and help to reduce greenhouse gases emissions and other toxins. They can also be produced from recycled material and from a variety of living and dead organic materials.

Jad, who says he enjoys practically all of his major courses at the University, is very fond of the CS, or culture and civilization, courses. The Zahle native will be graduating this semester, and plans to continue his studies in either the United States, Japan or Germany – countries that, he says, have made the more significant contributions in renewable energy.

Hopefully before he leaves, this lover of reggae, and old school Arabic and rock n’ roll music, would have finalized his plans and helped the cafeteria recycle its waste. The buses are ready. ​​​​​​
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University of Balamand,
Balamand Al Kurah,
Lebanon

Tel:  +961-6-930250
Fax: +961-6-930278