Institute for Sustainable Development

Our Sustainable Future - CSU, Chico

Mechanical Engineering Students Work Sustainable “Magic,” Turn Rice into Oil

An AS Sustainability Fund Project

August 2009
by Trevor Prater, Public Relations Intern
The Institute for Sustainable Development

(CSU, Chico) Four mechanical engineering students from California State University, Chico designed and built a prototype machine that extracts bio-diesel from rice bran. Nicholas Chemirs, Stephanie Enz, Anthony Defalma and Robert Spiller worked with faculty advisor Dr. Joseph Greene to research, design, manufacture and test the oil extractor. In the future, the design team hopes to use it at the CSU, Chico Farm to fuel diesel-burning farm equipment. The prototype was built as a final project for the Mechanical Engineering Senior Capstone class, MECH 440.

Often looked at as a farming waste, rice bran is the remaining sheath of skin collected when brown rice is converted to white rice. “Our machine extracts the natural oils out of rice bran in order to collect them for transesterification”. Said Nicholas Chemirs, a student involved in the project, “This allows us to harvest natural oils found in plants into renewable fuel, instead of using traditional fossil fuels”.

The benefits of using rice bran as a fuel are many, as it not only provides a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels, but it also serves as feed for livestock after the bran has been processed. The team of engineers researched the feasibility of using rice bran to not only sustainably fuel the CSU, Chico farm, but also to feed the livestock there as well.

The project was awarded funding through the Associated Students Sustainability Fund, paid for by the Associated Students Sustainability Fee and was managed by the Department of Mechanical Engineering at CSU, Chico. Approximately $80,000 is available annually through this fund to students that are dedicated to executing and improving sustainable practices at California State University, Chico and in the surrounding community.

Rice Bran Extractor

Our machine extracts the natural oils out of rice bran in order to collect them for transesterification"