Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions

Our Sustainable Future: New twist on using biomass for cosmetic, personal care and antioxidant-containing products

February 11, 2013

Star anise
Plants like star anise could be sustainable new
sources of valuable fragrance ingredients for
sunscreens and perfumes.


Credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Summary

In a new approach for tapping biomass as a sustainable
raw material, scientists are reporting use of a
Nobel-Prize-winning technology to transform plant
“essential oils” — substances with the characteristic
fragrance of the plant — into high-value ingredients
for sunscreens, perfumes and other personal care
products. The report on the approach, which could open
up new economic opportunities for tropical countries
that grow such plants, appears in the Journal of the
American Chemical Society
.

Today’s solution is a new approach for tapping biomass as a sustainable raw material for ingredients in sunscreens, perfumes and other personal care products. The approach could open up new economic opportunities for tropical countries that grow such plants. A report appears in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Deryn Fogg, Ph.D., Eduardo dos Santos, Ph.D., and their colleagues are reporting use of a Nobel-Prize-winning technology to transform plant “essential oils” ― substances with the characteristic fragrance of the plant ― into high-value ingredients.

Here’s Dr. Fogg, who is at the University of Ottawa:

“Breaking down plant material into ingredients for making commercial products is getting a lot of attention as a sustainable substitute for raw materials now obtained from petroleum. We decided to test a complementary approach that involves enhancing the complexity of substances found naturally in plants in ways that form antioxidants and other components of cosmetics and perfumes.”

Current methods for making some of these ingredients from plants are time-consuming, costly and wasteful. That’s why the scientists turned to “metathesis” — topic of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry — to make personal care product ingredients from plant essential oils. They describe use of metathesis in the laboratory to transform compounds in essential oils into highly valuable personal care product ingredients.

“These methodologies offer the potential for economic expansion via sustainable cultivation and elaboration of high-return source species in the tropical countries that represent the major producers of essential oils.”

Smart Chemists/Innovative Thinking

Smart chemists. Innovative thinking. That’s the key to solving global challenges of the 21st Century. Please check out more of our full-length podcasts on wide-ranging issues facing chemistry and science, such as promoting public health, developing new fuels and confronting climate change, at www.acs.org/GlobalChallenges Today’s podcast was written by Sam Lemonick. I’m Katie Cottingham at the American Chemical Society in Washington.

Deryn Fogg, Ph.D.
Deryn Fogg, Ph.D.,
University of Ottawa,
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada