U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


Main content area

Synthesis and physical properties of pennycress estolides and esters

Steven C. Cermak, Amber L. Durham, Terry A. Isbell, Roque L. Evangelista, Rex E. Murray
Industrial crops and products 2015 v.67 pp. 179-184
Thlaspi arvense, alternative crops, cold, condensation reactions, esterification, estolides, industrial applications, lubricants, palmitic acid, pour point, temperature, viscosity
A new series of pennycress (Thlaspi arvense L.) based free-acid estolides was synthesized by an acid-catalyzed condensation reaction, followed by an esterification reaction to produce the 2-ethylhexyl (2-EH) esters of the initial estolides. The physical properties of the estolides are highly affected by the length and unsaturation level of the capping fatty acid, the base fatty acid unit, and estolide linkage position. Both the free-acid estolides and the estolide 2-EH esters produced proved to have marked viscosity increases over previously synthesized estolides. Kinematic viscosities of the free-acid estolides were higher than the corresponding estolide 2-EH esters, ranging from 494.4cSt to 870.5cSt at 40°C and 53.6 to 75.3cSt at 100°C with viscosity indices (VI) from 134 to 163. Viscosities of the estolide esters ranged from 116.3 to 245.75cSt at 40°C and 18.2 to 33.6cSt at 100°C with viscosity indices (VI) from 169 to 183. The highest viscosity values belonged to the pennycress estolides made with pennycress fatty acids in the reaction acting as the base material, as well as the capping material. The oleic capped pennycress estolide 2-EH esters had the best low-temperature properties with a pour point (PP) of −33°C and cloud point (CP) of −31°C. With the exception of palmitic acid, there was very little variation in the low-temperature properties of the remaining saturate capped estolide 2-EH esters, PP ranging from −18 to −21°C. Pennycress is currently being developed for green diesel applications; the development of other industrial applications is a necessity for the success of an alternative crop. The combination of high viscosity and modest cold temperature properties of these pennycress estolides could fill a specialty niche as a high viscosity industrial lubricant.