The objective of our research is to evaluate the use of biologically derived oils in industrial applications
• Chemical modification to improve properties
• New analytical methods
• Catalytic reactions
• Product formulation and testing
This research is the basis for viable products that utilize American agriculture. Towards that aim, this lab is focused on the synthesis of industrially valuable materials from vegetable oils.
In their natural state, vegetable oils are quite suitable for the breakfast table where they make possible your fried hash browns and eggs, as well as give the appropriate texture to your morning biscuits. However, as industrial products, they tend to come up short.
In order to make suitable products, modification of the oil at a chemical level is necessary. The main focuses of my research is to gain understanding in order to control the factors which determine the products of a particular synthesis.
In one example, my lab was able to produce a branched oleochemical with potential to be a lubricant additive. With slight modification, an acid degradable ketal, with possible use in protein extraction, could be made from the same starting materials. In another example the use of supercritical carbon dioxide allowed the group to produce a polymer building block in only 1/3 of the time reported in prior methods. This research also has an applied side, where testing of these materials is done with a focus on what the industry needs in the near term. Interesting materials, such as a powerful friction reducing lubricant additive, an environmentally friendly detergent builder, or a glycerol containing surfactant have all been pursued.