Call for partners: Enlarge the application scope of functionalised fatty acids

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research has previously created new technology (WO2016/151115 A1) for a one pot process to enzymatically convert commodity oils and fatty acids into monohydroxylated fatty acids and estolides. The hydroxy fatty acids obtained are further converted to estolides using a second enzymatic step involving lipase-catalysed polymerisation. Ideally, these two steps are combined in a single reaction vessel to eliminate intermediate downstream processing. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research is welcoming partners to join this shared research development.

Hydroxy fatty acids and their derivatives like estolides, have huge application potential in products like home and personal care products, detergents, cosmetics, lubricants or polymer applications like polyurethane foams and pressure sensitive adhesives. Hydroxy fatty acids naturally occur in specialty vegetable oils like castor oil and meadowfoam seed oil. Hydroxy fatty acids can also be derived via chemical transformations from commodity oils like sunflower oil or soybean oil. Chemical methods to derive hydroxy fatty acids result into more poorly defined structures or require elevated pressure, high temperatures and expensive catalysts for transformations e.g. hydroformylation. Our enzymatic approach offers a favourable route in terms of Green Chemistry and results in well-defined product structures.

This figure illustrates some applications of estolides and hydroxy fatty acids derivatives in food, lubricant, cosmetics and polymer industries.
This figure illustrates some applications of estolides and hydroxy fatty acids derivatives in food, lubricant, cosmetics and polymer industries.

Unique properties

In connection with a commodity oilseed processor this technology is being further optimised and diversified. The commodity oilseed processor is looking to expand their portfolio of non-food products accessible from the oil fraction, thereby increasing the total use of their products and profitability and robustness of oilseed production. Our process, once operating at sufficient commercial scale, offers the potential  to derive hydroxy fatty acids at prices comparable or lower than hydroxy fatty acids obtained via other technologies. On top of that, the unique and more defined structure of the enzymatically derived hydroxy fatty acids and resulting products will offer unique properties and thereby a unique application space.

Join our shared research development

Now the basic technology has been established and proven we are inviting other companies all along the value chain to join the development: ranging from potential producers to users including brand owners, in creating a consortium project to further develop and diversify the technology. The activities will include amongst others, scaling up the technology, verifying and broadening the application scope and potential, techno economic and life cycle assessments.