UConn Chemical Engineering Professor Richard Parnas is co-founder and CTO of RPM Sustainable Technologies (RPM ST), a local biofuel and chemical engineering service company whose mission is to supply process technology to the biofuels and chemistry industries. Aided by research conducted at UConn’s Biodiesel lab, RPM ST has developed a process to convert waste, in the form of brown kitchen grease, into fuel, in the form of biodiesel. Previous to this innovation, Dr. Parnas converted yellow grease into biodiesel that then powered the UConn campus buses. However, this process grew to be economically inviable as it gained popularity and drove up the demand for and cost of yellow grease.
Brown grease, the thick waste that accumulates in the grease traps of fryers, is both less expensive and widely accessible. Restaurants and companies usually transport this waste to treatment plants for incineration or disposal, but this is an expensive process that poses detriment to both human health and the environment. RPM’s innovation makes use of this waste by splitting it into oils, used to make biodiesel, and biosolids, which are converted to another fuel source, synthesis gas. In all, Parnas says, the conversion of brown grease is a multi-billion dollar opportunity that benefits both business and the environment.