We have developed a new technology for the esterification/transesterification of vegetable oils using a combination of ultrasound and microwaves using a new reactor with a small foot print. The process currently under development should reduce the reaction time to less than 1 minute.
The transesterification of vegetable oil with short-chain alcohols, in the presence of a base as catalyst can be achieved rapidly using low frequency ultrasound (from 15 to 100 kHz). The quantity of required catalyst is 2 or 3 times lower than conventional methodology. The molar ratio of alcohol/oil used is only 6:1.
A patent, involving one of the founders as inventor, was issued in April 26, 2005, US 6,884,900 B2, in which it is provided a method for producing fatty acid alcohol ester useful as a substitute for light oil in which an ester interchange reaction between fats or oils and alcohol is carried out in a reactor by applying ultrasonic irradiation at a frequency of 15 to 100 kHz and irradiation intensity of 0.5 to 20 W/cm2 in the presence of a catalyst, followed by application of ultrasonic irradiation at a frequency of 200 to 3,000 kHz and irradiation intensity of 0.5 to 20 20 W/cm2 to the reaction product in a separation tank to separate fatty acid alcohol ester and glycerol. Ultrasonic irradiation can be applied in the separation tank to break the emulsion and separate the fatty acid alcohol ester and glycerol.