A bentonite from Milos, Greece, was activated with oxalic acid and the effect of acid activation conditions on bleaching of sunflower oil was investigated. The activation parameters studied were temperature, retention time and oxalic acid to bentonite mass ratio. The activated materials produced had good bleaching properties and were suitable for industrial use as bleaching earths. Optimum bleaching properties could be achieved using a variety of combinations of acid to bentonite ratios and activation times. Bleaching efficiency tests indicated that 24 h activation at 100°C with 1m oxalic acid and 25% pulp density (w/v) gave results equivalent to that of a commercial bleaching earth (Tonsil Optimum 210 FF). The combination that is likely to be more preferable on an industrial scale was 100°C, 25% pulp density (w/v), 1m initial oxalic acid concentration, 60% recycling of the oxalate solution (making up an acid to bentonite ratio 0.2 w/w) and 6 h activation time. The materials produced under these conditions have acceptable bleaching properties, corresponding to bleaching capacity greater than 78% compared to commercial Tonsil, and colour index (in red and yellow units) equal or even better than Tonsil.

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