Solvent May Change Cooking Oil Production

KINGSTON, Ontario, March 31 (UPI) — A Canadian professor says a special solvent he invented might revolutionize the manufacturing of cooking oil.

Queens University Professor Philip Jessop says his solvent, when combined with carbon dioxide, extracts oil from soybeans. Industries currently manufacture cooking oils using hexane, which is a cheap, flammable solvent that is also a neurotoxin and creates smog.

The current manufacturing process, Jessop said, also involves distillation and that uses large amounts of energy.

The researcher says his new method of making oil involves a “switchable” solvent that is hydrophobic, meaning it mixes with oils and doesn’t like water. But when carbon dioxide is added, the solvent becomes hydrophilic, meaning it mixes with water and doesn’t like to be in oil. So, Jessop said, when carbonated water — carbon dioxide and water — is added to a mixture of the solvent and soybeans, the oil is extracted from the soybeans and collected. When the carbon dioxide is removed, the solvent switches back to its hydrophobic state.

While this process has only been performed in the laboratory, Jessop says he’s already heard from cooking oil companies interested in his research. But the solvent is still years away from being used in large-scale oil manufacturing, he said.

The research has been published in the journal Green Chemistry.

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