This research project aims to investigate the impact of chemical reactions and distillation of nutraceutical compounds in the final quality of vegetable oils, submitted to deodorization and/or deacidification by steam distillation. These two processes, almost always present in the refining of edible oils, are conducted to produce a large difference in the volatility of the unwanted compounds (flavors and free acidity) and the neutral oil (acylglycerols). In order to attain this objective and ease the separation, it is done at high temperatures and strong vacuum. However, these drastic operational conditions also generate chemical reactions, as the cis-trans isomerization of unsaturated fatty acids, hydrolysis of acylglycerols, thermal decomposition of nutraceutical compounds and oxidation of pigments, besides the losses of neutral oil and natural antioxidants due to distillation. Following the methodology developed in previous works, in a first part of this project, it will be used the modeling and simulation of continuous deodorizers with the inclusion of important chemical reactions, for which the kinetic is available, and predictive equations for the physical properties of nutraceutical compounds. The inclusion of these new tools in the computational program would permit to quantify and qualify more precisely losses that occur throughout the refining of vegetable oils, and the composition of the distillate, both related to the profitability of the industry. It is interesting to also analyze the use of commercial software, such as Aspen PlusÒ, in this kind of problem solution. When this part of the project is complete, it would follow an experimental investigation of the deacidification of vegetable oils by steam distillation using a batch laboratory-scale equipment. Although this choice is not so common industrially, it represents the mainly phenomena that occur in the continuous process, in a simpler manner. The actualness and great importance of this kind of research is related to the increasing nutritional relevance attributed to certain aspects of the ingestion of oils and fats, as the presence of natural antioxidants, and the incidence of trans isomers, that already have an impact in the consumer choices, and, in a close future, will also influence the legislation of products elaborated with triacylglycerols. This proposal of research could help in the improvement of equipment design and in the enhancement of operational condition ranges to better the final quality of food products.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: