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Saponification is a process that involves the conversion of fat, oil, or lipid, into soap and alcohol by the action of aqueous alkali.
Saponification value or saponification number (SV or SN) is defined as the amount of potassium hydroxide (KOH) in milligrams required to saponify one gram of fat or oil under the conditions specified. It is a measure of the average molecular weight (or chain length) of all the fatty acids present in the sample as triglycerides. The higher the saponification value, the lower the fatty acids average length, the lighter the mean molecular weight of triglycerides and vice-versa.
To determine saponification value, the sample is hot-saponified with an excess of alkali (usually potassium hydroxide dissolved in ethanol), in standard conditions, generally for half an hour under reflux. At the end of the reaction the remaining quantity of alkali is titrated against standard solution of hydrochloric acid (HCl). Therefore, the SV (mg KOH/g of sample) is calculated as following:
V1 - HCl, for blank, mL
V2 - HCl, for sample, mL
N - the molarity of HCl solution, mol · L−1
W - weight of sample (dry basis), g
56.1 - molecular weight of KOH, g · mol−1
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