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

Terry A. Isbell, Roque Evangelista, Steve E. Glenn, Drew A. Devore, Bryan R. Moser, Steven C. Cermak, Serin Rao
Industrial crops and products 2015 v.66 pp. 188-193
Thlaspi arvense, biodiesel, crystallization, distillation, erucic acid, ethanol, fatty acid methyl esters, geographical distribution, growth habit, industrial crops, markets, methanol, potassium, seed oils, soaps, solvents, triacylglycerols, viscosity
Pennycress (Thlaspi arvense L.) is a winter annual that has a wide geographic distribution and a growth habit 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, 7Pa of pressure enriched the erucic acid content to 67.1% 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. All three enriched fractions (feed, distilled FAME and mother liquor) were suitable for biodiesel; 40°C viscosity range 4.142–5.509, 100°C viscosity range of 1.713–2.095. Pour points were improved from the feed of −18°C to −27°C in the mother liquor fraction and remained the same in the distillate at −18°C. HFRR wear scars ranged from 120 to 177μm across all fractions.