Directed isomerisation of safflower oil under very low hydrogen partial pressure of 7 psi over a novel bifunctional highly structured rhodium-based catalyst (Rh/SBA-15), having narrow pore size distribution ranging from 4 to 8 nm, and BET-specific surface of ≈1,000 m2 g−1, was investigated as a new chemocatalytic approach for vegetable oil hardening and simultaneously producing health-beneficial conjugated linoleic acids (CLA). Time course profiles of (cis-9, trans-11)-; (cis-10, trans-12)-; (trans-10, cis-12)-; (cis,cis)- and (trans, trans)-octadecadienoic isomers (CLAs) as well as the other fatty acids traditionally encountered during the hydrogenation of vegetable oils are presented and discussed under selected process conditions. Preliminary results show that it is possible to tailor characteristics of the hydrogenation catalyst in such way to confer its bi-functional activity: hydrogenation and conjugation isomerisation. © 2011 Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering
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