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Title: Emerging technologies for development of green industrial products from natural oils

item Doll, Kenneth - Ken
item Erhan, Sevim

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/1/2008
Publication Date: 10/1/2008
Citation: Doll, K.M., Erhan, S.Z. 2008. Emerging Technologies for Development of Green Industrial Products from Natural Oils [abstract]. Malaysian Oil Science and Technology. 17(2):74-79.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The need to find natural material which can replace the world’s diminishing petroleum is critical for the economy of the future. However, the successes of the American and European bio-diesel industries have caused controversy as well, with the food vs. fuel vs. feed debate likely to continue into the future. However, the use of oleochemicals for industrial products other than fuels, makes sense for environmental, regulatory, and, most importantly, economic reasons. Smart industrialists will realize that the natural properties of oleochemicals make them ideal for use in several different areas. These include industrial lubrication, structural polymers, hydrogels and surfactants. Our laboratory has specialized in the chemical modification of vegetable oils in a manner that takes advantage of their natural properties, yet overcomes some of their disadvantages. One method we have used extensively is epoxidation. This reaction method greatly increases the oxidation stability of a vegetable oil based lubrication fluid or grease, while retaining the natural friction reducing properties of the oleochemical. A variety of physical tests have confirmed our hypothesis, and the overall adsorption energy of epoxidized methyl oleate onto a metal surface was found to be -11 kJ mol-1. In the case of liquid lubricants, an additional method was also found to produce an even better lubricant, which also has a pour point lower than -30 deg C. Our laboratory has also made a variety of surfactant materials, also using epoxidation technology. In one example, a surfactant made using methyl oleate and glycerol has been shown to reduce aqueous surface tension down to ~34 mN m-1. Using this surfactant, oil in water emulsions with ~40 micrometer drops can be made without the use of a homogenizer. Polymeric surfactants can also be made using epoxidized soybean oil and acid catalyst. These “polysoaps” have properties which range from completely soluble to insoluble solids. In the most high value application of this technology, a hydrogel can be formed, which has been shown to be an effective drug delivery system for use against multi-drug resistant cells. In another technology, we have demonstrated the ability to synthesize a cyclic carbonate of soybean oil, using a supercritical carbon dioxide method. The method goes through an epoxidized intermediate, and the resultant material is a valuable precursor for polyurethane synthesis. A variety of catalysts studies show that the reaction proceeds best using a soluble bromide catalyst. Overall, our method allows the synthesis of the material in ~1/3 of the time which was reported in the literature. Natural oils are well suited for use in industry. Using their properties in order to find products which will compete on cost and performance bases will be a key in developing the sustainable biobased economy needed by future generations.