Epoxidized soybean oil (ESBO) is a clear to yellow liquid. ESBO is industrially available in large volume at a low price. Due to its low cost, non-toxicity and environmentally friendly properties, as well as its biodegradability compared to traditional phthalate plasticizers, ESBO is replacing dioctyl phthalate (DOP) in some applications.
ESBO is manufactured from soybean oil through the process of epoxidation. Polyunsaturated vegetable oils are widely used as precursors to epoxidized oil products because they have high numbers of carbon-carbon double bonds available for epoxidation. The epoxide group is more reactive than double bond, thus providing a more energetically favourable site for reaction. A peroxide or a peracid is usually used to add an atom of oxygen to convert the -C=C- bond to an epoxide. The oil is a good hydrochloric acid scavenger and plasticizer.
Epoxidized soybean oil (ESBO) is used as a plasticizer and stabilizer in plastic materials, especially PVC and its copolymers to keep these plastic soft and pliable. Food products that are stored in glass jars with metal lids need a gasket to make a good seal and that gasket is usually made from PVC. It forms an airtight seal which prevents microbiological and other contamination.
Epoxidized soybean oil is also used in pesticides as a replacement of epichlorohydrin. Epoxidized soybean oil and other epoxide substances are used as raw materials for various applications that include functional fluids, fuel additives, flavour and fragrances, surfactants, adhesive and coatings.