We developed an efficient, integrated reaction-extraction process for the production of short-chain fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEE) from milk fat, using carbon dioxide as the only processing solvent. FAEE were synthesized using a short-chain fatty acid selective lipase. The expansion of the liquid mixture of reactants by dense carbon dioxide enhanced the apparent lipase selectivity. In situ extraction of FAEE by a continuous flow of supercritical carbon dioxide proved to increase the lipase production rate. When the integrated process was operated with alternated periods of synthesis and product removal, the overall selectivity for short-chain FAEE increased as well, as a result of the combination of the selectivities of lipase and extraction solvent. A two-fold increase of the lipase productivity was achieved at these conditions, compared to a single batch reaction. The developed process enables the synthesis and isolation of high-value fatty acid derivatives from a natural source such as milk fat. © 2009 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 2009
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