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A straightforward technology to separate fatty acid mixtures into individual compounds

Vegetable oils are tri esters of glycerol and three fatty acids. They may be saturated or contain one or more CC double bonds. These fatty acids or their alkyl ester derivatives are chemicals with a huge market potential, e.g. in the food industry. They are also important renewable feedstock chemicals for the pharmaceutical, polymer and cosmetics industries, and also provide an alternative source of chemicals to those obtained from petrochemicals.

In spite of their enormous potential, the application area of fatty acids remains somewhat limited. Why? Because they are isolated as mixtures which reflect the fatty acid composition of the original vegetable oil source. For example, the widely produced palm oil is a mixture of different fatty acids, including palmitic acid; oleic acid, linoleic acid, stearic acid, and myristic acid.

Separating such mixtures in individual compounds is quite challenging. This because they differ in the degree of unsaturation but are quite similar in their physical properties, exhibiting similar molecular weight, boiling point and solubility.– This especially when high purities or highly enriched fractions of one or more of the different organic compounds need to be obtained.

The difficulty in the separation of vegetable oils in their individual components on a large scale is one of the reasons that the use of fatty acids as a feedstock in the industry is inhibited.

VITO solution

VITO developed a straightforward technology to separate fatty acid mixtures into individual compounds.  The method allows the separation or fractionation of organic compound mixtures having very similar structural and physical properties but differing in the number and/or position of unsaturated (double) bonds into the individual compounds of.

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