Scientists in Germany have discovered that waste from the processing of rapeseed oil could be used instead of petroleum-based raw materials for making products like food-safe lubricant.
Rapeseed oil is commonly used in food production, but as it is made by pressing oil from the seed, it leaves a protein-based by-product in the form of rapeseed meal. According to a scientist at the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV, Andreas Fetzer, this by-product contains bitter substances, meaning its use is often limited to livestock feed.
According to Fetzer, though, the proteins in this rapeseed meal have some useful properties, including being able to retain water and form films, foams, and gels. These may have a wide range of industrial applications.
Extracting the proteins is also relatively simple, as he explains:
“We de-oil, grind, and dissolve the rapeseed press-cake in water. The mixture is then centrifuged to separate the solids from the liquids. After that, we refine the aqueous extract with the dissolved proteins.”
Fetzer says vegetable proteins like these are paving the way for new bio-based products—such as paints, lubricants, varnishes, detergents, adhesives, polymers, and building materials—with superior properties, all in a sustainable manner.
The use of biological material as an alternative for hydrocarbons is being pioneered in other organisations as well. For example, the oil major behind the Mobil brand, ExxonMobil, has been researching the use of algae oil as an industrial-scale alternative to crude oil.