The Alternative Fuels Program has successfully converted a five-cylinder 1977 Mercedes diesel engine into a functional oven that runs on vegetable oil. The engine is mounted on a heavy wheeled-stand and is capable of being rolled to the area where it will be used. It is self-contained and needs no external power or other external resource hookups to operate.
The engine is nicknamed the Appetizer Engine because, in addition to baking bread and pizza, it runs on vegetable oil that can also be used as a dip or basting oil for the products baked. The engine was designed and built by SRJC Alternative Fuel Program students and faculty to give SRJC students and the community an imaginative, colorful, fun, and tactile example of sustainable, recyclable energy.
The baking heat is generated by the running engine. The exhaust heat is captured and directed to a large, insulated stainless steel mailbox attached to the wheeled stand. Inside the mailbox are firebricks that line the bottom and sides for insulation and a round pizza stone in the center to use as a baking surface. The oven can reach an internal temperature of 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Appetizer baked its first batch of cookies one year ago with Kris Dalby serving as the head chef. The engine has presented several challenges for the students; work has continued over the last year to refine the appearance and to iron out a few technical difficulties with engine temperature control and instrumentation. Overall, the students, faculty, and supervising dean have greatly enjoyed this project and are looking forward to their next engineering challenge.