Queens University Professor Philip Jessop says his unique solvent might revolutionize the manufacturing of cooking oil.
The solvent he invented extracts oil from soybeans when combined with carbon dioxide. This is a far better method environmentally when compared to the industries’ current manufacturing process for cooking oils, which uses hexane – a cheap, flammable solvent that is also a neurotoxin and produces smog.
Additionally, the current system using hexane uses significant amounts of energy as part of its distillation process.
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Jessop described his new technique to make oil utilizes a “switchable” solvent that is hydrophobic – which means it mixes with oils and doesn’t like water – but when carbon dioxide is added the solvent mixes with water and doesn’t like to be in oil, becoming hydrophilic.
When he adds carbonated water – water and carbon dioxide – to a mixture of the solvent and soybeans, he is able to extract and collect the oil from the soybeans. When the carbon dioxide is removed, the solvent switches back to its hydrophobic state.
While his research has not yet left the laboratory, Professor Jessop has already been contacted by cooking oil companies interested in his work. But large-scale oil manufacturing using the solvent is still years away.
Image courtesy of Akeg