What are the difference between diesel and vegetable oil?

 Diesel fuel is known as a Hydrocarbon. That means that it is made from hydrogen and carbon atoms. The carbon atoms form a chain. In diesel fuel, the chain is normally 16 or 17 carbons long, like this:

    H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H
    | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
  H-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-H
    | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
    H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H

Now compare that to vegetable oil. Vegetable oil is made out of hydrocarbon chains too. A vegetable oil molecule actually has three chains that are bonded together. That's why another name for a fat molecule is a triglyide. A vegetable oil molecule looks like this:

     H     O H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H
      \    | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
       C-O-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-H
      /|     | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
     H |     H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H
       |
       |
       |   O H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H
       |   | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
     H-C-O-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-H
       |     | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
       |     H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H
       |
       |
     H |   O H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H
      \|   | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
       C-O-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-H
      /      | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
     H       H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H

That is one big molecule with three legs attached together. But if you look at the legs, you see they look exactly like diesel fuel molecules! So these legs burn in the engine just like diesel fuel does. The thing on the left that holds the three legs together is called a glycerol, and it burns in the engine too without any trouble.
You may have heard of biodeisel. To make biodiesel, you use heat and a little chemistry to take off the glycerol part and release the three legs. This turns the vegetable oil into actual diesel fuel. The advantage is that:

    Biodiesel flows a little better (diesel fuel is thinner than vegetable oil
    Biodiesel doesn't "go rancid" like vegetable oil can
    Biodiesel works better in the winter.


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