Biodiesel, an "alternative" diesel fuel derived from vegetable oils, animals fats or used frying oils, largely consists of the mono-alkyl esters of the fatty acids comprising these feedstocks. One of the major technical issue facing biodiesel is its susceptibility to oxidation upon exposure to oxygen in ambient air. This susceptibility is due to its content of unsaturated fatty acid chains, especially those with bis-allylic methylene moieties. Oxidation of fatty acid chains is a complex process that proceeds by a variety of mechanisms. Besides the presence of air, various other factors influence the oxidation process of biodiesel including presence of light, elevated temperature, extraneous materials such as metals which may be even present in the container material, peroxides, and antioxidants, as well as the size of the surface area between biodiesel and air. Approaches to improving biodiesel oxidative stability include the deliberate addition of antioxidants or modification of the fatty ester profile. This article discusses some factors influencing biodiesel oxidative stability and their interaction. Resulting approaches to improving this property of biodiesel are related to these factors and the corresponding mechanisms.
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