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J Biosci Bioeng. 1999;88(6):627-31.

Biodiesel fuel production from plant oil catalyzed by Rhizopus oryzae lipase in a water-containing system without an organic solvent.

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  • 1Department of Chemical Science and Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Kobe University, 1-1 Rokkodai, Nada, Kobe 657-8501, Japan.


A new enzymatic method of synthesizing methyl esters from plant oil and methanol in a solvent-free reaction system was developed. It is anticipated that such plant oil methyl esters can be used as a biodiesel fuel in the future. Lipase from Rhizopus oryzae efficiently catalyzed the methanolysis of soybean oil in the presence of 4-30 wt% water in the starting materials; however the lipase was nearly inactive in the absence of water. The methyl ester (ME) content in the reaction mixture reached 80-90 wt% by stepwise additions of methanol to the reaction mixture. The kinetics of the reaction appears to be in accordance with the successive reaction mechanism. That is, the oil is first hydrolyzed to free fatty acids and partial glycerides, and the fatty acids produced are then esterified with methanol. Although R. oryzae lipase is considered to exhibit 1(3)-regiospecificity, a certain amount of 1,3-diglyceride was obtained during the methanolysis and hydrolysis of soybean oil by R. oryzae lipase solution. Therefore, the high ME content in the reaction mixture is probably attributable to the acyl migration from the sn-2 position to the sn-1 or sn-3 position in partial glycerides.

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