Dwindling oil reserves and growing concerns over carbon dioxide emissions and associated climate change are driving the utilisation of renewable feedstocks as alternative, sustainable fuel sources. Catalysis has a rich history of facilitating energy efficient, selective molecular transformations, and contributes to 90% of current chemical manufacturing processes. In a post-petroleum era, catalysis will be pivotal in overcoming the scientific and engineering barriers to economically feasible bio-fuels. This perspective highlights some recent developments in heterogeneous catalysts for the synthesis of biodiesel from renewable resources, derived from plant and aquatic oil sources. Particular attention will be paid to the importance of catalyst pore architecture, surface polarity and acid and base properties, in meeting the challenge of transforming highly polar and viscous bio-based reactants.
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