The Synthesis and Characterisation of Long-Chain Fatty Acids

  • John Davies

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The commercial hydrogenation of oils and fats results in the formation of, among other components, geometrical and positional isomers of monounsaturated fatty acids. The view that there may be hazards associated with such oils have occasionally been expressed. Prior to an investigation of the levels of such acids in human tissue and UK dietary fats, the synthesis of a series of these acids, as standards, and their characterisation, was necessary.

    For the synthetic programme, the general scheme provided a convenient route for the synthesis of geometrical and positional isomers from common precursors. When condensation of the a1-alkyne and a-chloro-w-iodoalkane was performed via sodamide in liquid ammonia, the scheme was limited but was extended somewhat when performed via methyllithium in dioxan. Generally, yields decreased with the increasing chain length, and migration of the unsaturated bond to the extremities of the resulting molecule.

    Chromatographic separation, both capillary column GLC and reversephase HPLC, was readily achieved on the basis of chain length and configuration of the double bond. Furthermore, the partial separation of positional isomers was achieved.

    NMR spectroscopy unambiguously determined the configuration and position of unsaturation in virtually every fatty acid. Assignment is based on the fact that functional groups within an acid alter the chemical shift of neighbouring carbons in a characteristic manner.

    No one of these techniques alone is applicable to the determination of positional isomerism in a complex lipid mixture and must be used in combination. Whereas NMR is undoubtedly invaluable in the quantification of positional isomers on an individual basis, or in profiling simple mixtures, it is not as applicable to the direct analysis of complex lipid samples. Emphasis on the continuing development of capillary column GLC holds the most promise for the direct quantification of positional isomerism.
    Date of AwardJun 1987
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Polytechnic of Wales

    Cite this