Pretreatment of the high free fatty acid rubber seed oil (RSO) via esterification reaction has been investigated by using a pilot scale hydrodynamic cavitation (HC) reactor. Four newly designed orifice plate geometries are studied. Cavities are induced by assisted double diaphragm pump in the range of 1-3.5 bar inlet pressure. An optimised plate with 21 holes of 1mm diameter and inlet pressure of 3 bar resulted in RSO acid value reduction from 72.36 to 2.64 mg KOH/g within 30 min of reaction time. Reaction parameters have been optimised by using response surface methodology and found as methanol to oil ratio of 6:1, catalyst concentration of 8 wt%, reaction time of 30 min and reaction temperature of 55°C. The reaction time and esterified efficiency of HC was three fold shorter and four fold higher than mechanical stirring. This makes the HC process more environmental friendly.
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