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Microwave Extraction and Synthesis of Fatty Acid Methyl Esters

Fatty acid methyl esters (FAME) can be used as biofuels. This can reduce the consumption of fossil fuels which are expensive, limited, nonrenewable and associated with environmental impact. However, their production process is bound to high energy costs. Hence, the development of fast and energy efficient synthetic pathways to prepare these fuel alternatives is a topic of major interest.

Oleaginous yeasts like Rhodotorula glutinis accumulate important amounts of lipids. Those can be extracted and transformed into liquid fuels by using potassium or sodium alkoxide catalysts under conventional heating. However in a basic aqueous medium undesired saponification reactions can occur. Furthermore, extraction is usually the most costly step due to long process times and high solvent consumption. Microwave heating allows the effective extraction of lipids in a short time.

The rapid conversion of lipids in the presence of acid catalysts, to avoid side reactions, has been also described. Synthetic approaches for the production of biofuels, with short reaction times and low process costs, are desirable.

This report describes the use of microwaves as a convenient heating method for the extraction of lipids and their transformation into FAMEs.

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