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Reactivity of fatty esters and glycerol: new methods

Methyl esters of vegetable oils and glycerol are being developed for new industrial applications. The overall approach covers three related topics: identification of new products and new uses for materials produced from biological raw material, such as cross esterification of lignocellulosic wastes (eg, sawdust) or the use of derivatives of low grade glycerin in polyurethanes; epoxy derivatives of rapeseed oil; new derivatives for traditional applications under the generic term of surface active chemicals. Emphasis is placed on new processes and functions which can be associated with expansion of non-food uses of vegetable oils in Europe, in particular within the framework of the industrial set aside reforms.

New compounds for new applications include: fatty esters of lignocellulose; glycerol derivatives in polyurethane foams. New chemical intermediates include: catalytic epoxydation of fatty esters and acids; chemical opening of epoxydized fatty acids and esters. New compounds for established applications include: preparation of fatty unsaturated alcohols; reductive amination of fatty acids and esters; esteramides and polyesteramides; estolides; selective esterification of glycerol.

The fatty derivatives required have been prepared at the laboratory scale and the reactions investigated have worked well. Promising catalysts have been prepared and one of them (for use with unsaturated fatty alcohols) has been prepared in quantity for pilot scale development. Catalysts for epoxidation have been prepared and will be investigated further. Epoxide opening with several nucleophiles has been demonstrated, this will be scaled up to produce material for future application testing. Derivatives have been prepared for polyurethane foams and temporary coatings. These have yet to be evaluated. Laboratory scale production of fatty amines enables assessment with stability testing of the catalyst and design of a continuous device part of the continuing activity. Monoglycerides preparations are promising at the laboratory scale and samples are available for the first evaluations.

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