Waste cooking oil from restaurant deep fryers could become a much-sought inexpensive raw material for producing unusual biosurfactants with uses ranging from therapeutic cosmetics that regenerate damaged skin to controlling algae blooms in lakes and ponds, according to researchers in New York.
In a report scheduled for the April 9 issue of the ACS bimonthly journal Biotechnology Progress, Vishal Shah and colleagues estimate that restaurants in the United States generate about 25 billion gallons of waste cooking oil each week. The waste oil, marketed as "yellow grease," long has been used in animal feed, with researchers exploring new applications such as biodiesel fuel.
"We have successfully demonstrated the use of restaurant waste oil as a potential low-cost lipid feedstock for sophorolipid production," the report states. "This method of waste oil disposal has the advantage of producing a value-added commercially viable byproduct."
Sophorolipids have a range of applications, including naturally derived ingredients in therapeutic cosmetics; germicidal solutions for washing fruits and vegetables; and anti-algal agents for environmental cleanups, the report notes.
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