W2W
RESEARCH EXPERIENCE FOR TEACHERS:
"Wood to Wheels" - Research Experience for High School Teachers in Sustainable Transportation Technologies

RET

Michigan
Technological
University
Sustainable Futures Institute
1400 Townsend Drive
Houghton, Michigan 49931

Phone: 906.487.3612
Fax: 906.487.2943
e-mail: sfi@mtu.edu


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Student aluminum can calorimeter for combustion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



From Woods to Wheels: An Introduction to Replacing Fossil Fuels with Bio-Fuels as an Energy Source for Transportation

Teacher Infomation:Clint Heikkila

Lake Linden-Hubbell High School

heikkilac@lakelinden.k12.mi.us

Unit Overview

This six day unit begins with an overview that first summarizes the problems we are facing with using fossil fuels as our primary energy source and then introduces the use of biofuels in transportation as one potential solution to these problems. Following are three lab activities in which the students investigate the formation and combustion of a biofuel. The unit ends with a class discussion of the potential implications of a major transition to the use of biofuels in transportation, including impacts on the local area.

Target Grade Level: High School Chemistry

Download Unit Outline & Timeline

Download RET Research Poster

Lesson Plans:
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Lesson One: Introduction to Biofuels as a Replacement of Fossil Fuels in Transportation

This lesson uses two NSF Educational Web Modules to give the students an overview of biofuels as an energy source for transportation.  Students are given a guided-reading worksheet to answer as they go through the web modules.  On the following day, the students are given an argumentative writing assignment in which they conduct a silent, written discussion with a partner in which each argues one side of the claim that the use of bio-fuels in transportation is an important part of our future.  Each claim made is to be supported with evidence found during the first day.  In other words, the writing activity is where they display what they have learned during Day 1 about the use of biofuels in transportation.  At the end, all groups come together for a whole-class discussion to share and compare the claims they all have made. 

Download Lesson One Plans

Lesson Two:  Converting Plant Biomass Into an Automotive Biofuel: How can corn and sugarcane products be converted into ethanol?

In this lesson, the students actually convert two different plant materials into ethanol.  Day one consists of adding a sample of corn oil and a sample of table sugar to two separate yeast solutions, which begins a fermentation process in which the yeast organisms break down the sugar in the plant material (glucose in the corn syrup and sucrose in the table sugar) into ethanol and carbon dioxide.  After a five day fermentation period, the students then purify the created ethanol out of the two solutions in a distillation process where the ethanol is vaporized, separated, and condensed back to the final product, liquid ethanol.  The students will set up the apparatuses as well as measure and record all data in both parts of the activity.  This activity is one of three in a lab kit called “Biofuels- Investigating Ethanol Production and Combustion” by Enasco.

Download Lesson Two Plans

Lesson Three: Measuring Energy Released by the Combustion of a Biofuel and a Fossil Fuel: Which fuel- ethanol or kerosene- will release the most energy when combusted?

In this lesson, the students will set up a simple aluminum can calorimeter and combust a sample of ethanol and a sample of kerosene in a glass, wick-type fuel burner.  By taking the initial and final temperature measurements of a given amount of water being heated by the two fires, enthalpy calculations are made to determine the energy content of each fuel on a calorie per gram basis.  The students, working in groups, will set up the calorimeter, measure and record all data, and perform all of the thermochemical calculations needed to make the final comparison between the two fuels. This activity is one of three in a lab kit called “Biofuels- Investigating Ethanol Production and Combustion” by Enasco.

Download Lesson Three Plans

Lesson Four: Comparing the By Products of Combustion of a Biofuel and a Fossil Fuel: Which fuel- ethanol or kerosene- will release the most particulates and carbon dioxide? (Which is the cleaner burning fuel?)

In this lesson, the students will combust a sample of ethanol and a sample of kerosene in a glass, wick-type fuel burner.  They then first make a comparative measurement of the amount of particulate matter (soot) given off by each fire.  Secondly, they measure the comparative amount of carbon dioxide produced by each combustion reaction.  The first experiment uses a qualitative measurement based on how “black” a collection material becomes after being exposed to the exhaust stream.  The second involves capturing a sample of each exhaust gas, dissolving the collected gases in water that is loaded with an indicator dye, and using an acid-base titration to determine the relative amount of carbon dioxide in each of the solutions made from the exhaust gases. This activity is one of three in a lab kit called “Biofuels- Investigating Ethanol Production and Combustion” by Enasco.

Download Lesson Four Plans

Lesson Five: SUMMARY LESSON: Are Biofuels Worth Pursuing?

In this lesson, the students will summarize what they have learned in the Wood to Wheels unit in the format of writing a list of all the pros and cons of using biofuels as a major energy source for transportation.  All reasoning will be supported by evidence they have gathered in the overview session as well as the three lab investigations.  The writing activity will be followed by a group discussion where the students share and discuss ideas.  

Download Lesson Five Plans




 



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