University of Kentucky

Poster Title

STUDY 1: Converting Plant Oil into Lubricants for Combustion Engines

Institution

University of Kentucky

Abstract

In a nation dependent on petroleum, what can be done to reduce our dependence on this nonrenewable resource? Currently, motor oils used to lubricate automobile engines are derived from petroleum. Much of our nation's oil must be imported. Moreover, petroleum-derived lubricants can cause pollution when leaked or spilled or not disposed properly. Innovative techniques show that plant oils can be genetically improved to function as engine lubricants. Plant oils in their current state do not have sufficient oxidative stability to maintain lubricant capabilities over periods of time as long as current petroleum-derived lubricant oils. This could be solved by converting double bonds in plant oils into cyclopropyl groups as some plants in nature already do. Cyclopropyl groups tend to have the needed low temperature fluidity and lubrication, as well as high oxidative stabilities. Plants have the capability to accumulate around 90% of specific fatty acids in seed oil. The goal of this project was to engineer plants to convert unsaturated fatty acids that accumulate in seed oils into cyclopropyl groups and selectively transfer the moieties from membrane lipids to seed oil triacylglyceride. This process should produce a performance enhancing motor oil with high oxidative stability and good flow properties over a wide range of temperatures. The success of this project would bring recognition and support to the State of Kentucky and improve the state's and nation's economy by curbing the dependence on imported oil by producing the oil here.

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STUDY 1: Converting Plant Oil into Lubricants for Combustion Engines

In a nation dependent on petroleum, what can be done to reduce our dependence on this nonrenewable resource? Currently, motor oils used to lubricate automobile engines are derived from petroleum. Much of our nation's oil must be imported. Moreover, petroleum-derived lubricants can cause pollution when leaked or spilled or not disposed properly. Innovative techniques show that plant oils can be genetically improved to function as engine lubricants. Plant oils in their current state do not have sufficient oxidative stability to maintain lubricant capabilities over periods of time as long as current petroleum-derived lubricant oils. This could be solved by converting double bonds in plant oils into cyclopropyl groups as some plants in nature already do. Cyclopropyl groups tend to have the needed low temperature fluidity and lubrication, as well as high oxidative stabilities. Plants have the capability to accumulate around 90% of specific fatty acids in seed oil. The goal of this project was to engineer plants to convert unsaturated fatty acids that accumulate in seed oils into cyclopropyl groups and selectively transfer the moieties from membrane lipids to seed oil triacylglyceride. This process should produce a performance enhancing motor oil with high oxidative stability and good flow properties over a wide range of temperatures. The success of this project would bring recognition and support to the State of Kentucky and improve the state's and nation's economy by curbing the dependence on imported oil by producing the oil here.