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Sustainable ‘Green’ Production of Fatty Acid Esters for Biodiesel and Emollients (Case 2044)

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Technology:

Recently developed reagents in synthetic organic chemistry are promising alternatives to those that have been used in industry for decades. In many cases the newer chemical methodologies and reagents are safer and more environmentally benign. The industrial production of biodiesel from triglycerides and fatty acids exemplifies a process that can be improved using state of the art reactions and reagents in organic chemistry. Currently biodiesel is produced from triglycerides via a potassium hydroxide-promoted trans-esterification and from fatty acids via sulfuric acid-promoted esterification. These processes are problematic because the reaction times are long and because sulfuric acid and potassium hydroxide compromise equipment and release toxic vapors as a result of solvent/acid requirements. Financial and environmental impact concerns are strong motivations to find new and safe methods of biodiesel production. Biodiesel production would greatly benefit from the availability of stable catalysts that can efficiently convert both fatty acids and triacylglycerols into alkyl esters under mild and environmentally benign conditions and with sufficient catalyst recovery on an industrial scale. This invention uses energy efficient microwave heating along with non-toxic environmentally benign and moisture/air-stable catalysts to convert triacylglycerols and free fatty acids into biodiesel. As such it can be used to convert waste vegetable oil into biodiesel. Beyond biodiesel the technology is also compatible with the conversion of fatty acids into other high value fatty acid esters including emollients and lubricants. On this basis the technology is also applicable to the multi-billion dollar global bioenergy cosmetic skin care pharmaceutical and lubricant markets. Markets include: energy lubricants pharmaceutical and personal/consumer products; applications incorporating fatty acid esters are liquid biodiesel fuel production for transportation and power generation production of emollients used in cosmetic/skin care and topical medicine formulations to increase skin absorption and the manufacture of lubricants among others where there is a utility for fatty acid esters. US patent application 13/362008 is pending.

Benefits:

Uses energy efficient microwave heating along with non-toxic environmentally benign and moisture/air-stable catalysts.

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