Enzymatic synthesis of wood coatings
08 December 2005
Researchers in Sweden have developed a solvent free, energy efficient and high yielding biotechnological method to transform rapeseed oil into a wax coating suitable for wooden surfaces.
Anna Petersson and colleagues from the departments of technology and society, and biotechnology, Lund University, used rapeseed oil as a natural source of long-chain carboxylic acids and alcohols. They have developed a method to convert these acids and alcohols into their corresponding esters (wax esters). This key reaction is catalysed by the environmentally benign enzyme lipase. The enzymatic process uses 34 per cent less energy and generates less waste than a standard chemical esterification reaction using a strong acid catalyst.
- Anna Petersson, Lund University
The wax esters make attractive starting materials for wood coatings, because they are non-hazardous biodegrade well. Wood coatings made from these wax esters are resistant to water and partially resistant to fat stains, industrial tests showed.
Further research will take this process to an industrial scale. Petersson said, 'in the longer term, demonstrating profitable industrial applications are important for motivating continued research efforts in this area'.
A E V Petersson, L M Gustafsson, M Nordblad, P Börjesson, B Mattiasson and P Adlercreutz, Green Chem., 2005, 7, 837 (DOI: 10.1039/b510815b)