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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Peoria, Illinois » National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research » Bio-oils Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #306107

Title: Enrichment of erucic acid from pennycress (Thlaspi arvense L.) seed oil

item Isbell, Terry
item Evangelista, Roque
item Glenn, Steve
item Devore, Drew
item Moser, Bryan
item Cermak, Steven - Steve
item RAO, SERIN - Arvens Technology

Submitted to: Industrial Crops and Products
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/22/2014
Publication Date: 1/7/2015
Publication URL:
Citation: Isbell, T.A., Evangelista, R.L., Glenn, S.E., Devore, D.A., Moser, B.R., Cermak, S.C., Rao, S. 2015. Enrichment of erucic acid from pennycress (Thlaspi arvense L.) seed oil. Industrial Crops and Products. 66:188-193.

Interpretive Summary: Pennycress is being developed as an off-season rotation crop between annual corn and soybean production. This rotation scheme may offer distinct advantages to farmers by providing additional farm income from an otherwise fallow season with little impact on the subsequent soybean production. The seed contains up to 36% oil with the major fatty acid as erucic (36%). The fatty acid composition in thlaspi has been shown to have physical properties suitable for biofuels like biodiesel and hydro-treated renewable jet fuel (HRJ). Of particular interest is the isolation and enrichment of erucic acid, which has a number of potential industrial applications. This project successfully enriched the erucic acid content from 36% to 72% by molecular distillation and to 71% by fractional crystallization of the potassium soap of the fatty acid. This enriched fraction will provide a good erucic acid feedstock for use in a number of industrial products.

Technical Abstract: Pennycress (Thlaspi arvense) is a winter annual that has a wide geographic distribution and a growth habitat that makes it suitable for an off-season rotation between corn and soybeans in much of the Midwestern United States. Pennycress seed contains 36% oil with 36.6% erucic acid content. There are a number of markets that pennycress could supply from an enriched erucic fatty acid fraction. Erucic acid was enriched using two independent separation methods; vacuum distillation of fatty acids or methyl esters and fractional crystallization of potassium soaps directly from the triglyceride. Fractional crystallization provided the highest level of purity, yielding an 87% erucic enriched fraction but in low theoretical recovery of 23% when ethanol was used as the crystallization solvent. A higher theoretical erucic recovery (59%) was obtained when methanol was used as a solvent yielding a 71% enriched erucic acid fraction. This method utilized a mixed solvent (90:10 methanol/water) for crystallization with a 5:1 solvent to analyte ratio. In an independent study, molecular distillation of the fatty acid methyl esters at 90°C, 7 Pa of pressure enriched the erucic acid content to 55.3% in a single pass and could be further enriched to 71.6% with a second pass with an overall mass balance for this double distilled fraction of 43.2%. Distillation of the fatty acids was similar to the methyl esters yielding a fraction that contained 69.0% erucic with an overall mass balance of this fraction of 38.4% after two distillations. The highest purity (87%) erucic acid could be obtained from a fractional crystallization of the potassium soap when ethanol was used as the solvent; however, the recovery mass was only 23% for this enriched fraction.