Styrofoam Ups Biodiesel Performance, May Not Be Evil After All

By Rachel Cernansky | May 4, 2009 11:59 am

styro.jpgIn the eco-irony of the day, the dreaded un-biodegradable Styrofoam may be able to make a contribution (albeit small) to the environment after all. Scientists have found that adding polystyrene (the generic term for Styrofoam) to biodiesel can improve auto performance.

According to new research, polystyrene dissolves in biodiesel “like a snowflake in water” and increases its viscosity, building pressure inside the fuel injector and causing fuel to be injected into the engine sooner, increasing overall output.

Concentrations of polystyrene up to five percent by volume can boost power output, but above that (they tried up to 20 percent), power output begins to decline again. When the polystyrene concentration reaches 15 percent, the fuel gets too thick and the fuel injection pump overheats. Unfortunately, the discovery doesn’t work with other liquid fuels, or even petroleum-based diesel.

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Image: Flickr / Tony Crider


  • Mike Carroll

    Gas + Styrofoam… As I recall, Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book described how to make Molotov cocktails using that combination!

  • Pingback: Biodiesel News - Styrofoam Ups Biodiesel Performance, May Not Be Evil After All | Step By Step Plan To Make Your Own Biodiesel At Home()

  • Carol Davis

    I’m no chemist, but this article only addresses the improvement in PERFORMANCE by adding styrofoam to biodiesel. What are the environmental implications then burning that mixture and releasing the byproducts into the air? You know what? Blowing up mountains to get at the coal underneath also dramatically improved the EFFICIENCY of that process too. Please tell me folks are not seriously considering doing this without some investigation in to the environmental impacts.

  • Jef

    my local environmentally conscious coffee shop uses styrofoam cups because they are more efficient to recycle than paper and can be recycled more times, or something like that. they have a special bin for them inbetween the recycle and the trash.

  • Markle

    @Carol Davis
    You could read the fine article and find out:

    “The new fuel mix is not without its problems, however – as the concentration of polystyrene increases, so do emissions of carbon monoxide, soot, and nitrous oxides.”

    “…as long as emissions can be brought back into line, adding polystyrene into fuel makes sense….
    Polystyrene is so lightweight and bulky that it’s uneconomical to ship to recycling plants. “Technologies like this where you get energy back would be preferable to landfilling,” Malloy says.”

  • Biomass PDF

    biofuel is better than electricity energy for my car.


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