Ethyl esters are esters that react with an ethyl alcohol during a condensation reaction, forming an unsaturated structure with a carbonyl group attached to it. They are commonly derived, purified, and esterfied from fish oils for the use in the supplements industry but they occur naturally in most animal and plant fats. Although most commonly known for their use in nutritional supplements, Ethyl Esters are also used industrially as a sustainable alternative to petrochemicals in various industries.
Omega-3 acid ethyl esters are thought to help lower blood triglycerides, which may reduce the risk of pancreatitis. They are prescribed, along with a change in diet, to patients with hypertriglyceridemia as a way to reduce the risk of a heart disease. Omega 3 is a common over-the-counter supplement with various claimed benefits.
Ethyl esters are also being used in the making of printing inks as a low-cost alternative to petroleum based additives. In addition to offset printing inks, they have also been used in food-safe inks for food packaging. Inks made using ethyl esters exhibit excellent rub resistance and a high gloss and print contrast, which has led to their popularity in printing inks and paints alike. This is an innovative example of how the chemical industry can use the by products of another industry to reduce its carbon footprint.
The use of sustainable oil in products such as inks, had led to a direct reduction of the use of crude oil in these industries. Natural esters have a kinematic viscosity similar to that of petroleum-based solvents and its resin dilution power is adjustable. Their use as a substitute has also been explored in feed stock and bio-diesels.
Research has shown that ethyl esters could be used in the biomedical industry beyond the use of supplements. A type of ethyl ester called Ethyl Ester L-Lysine Triisocyanate (LTI), can be added to Polylactide/Polycaprolactone (PLA/PCL) polyester blends to enhance the interaction and dispersion of the two components; resulting in synergic mechanical and physical properties. Notably, the addition of ethyl esters seems to increase the ductility of the mixed polymers. These reactive blends could be used as absorbable suture threads and bioscaffolds.