25. Aug 2021

Opening the door for sustainable solvents

Opening the door for sustainable solvents

A study using Circa’s renewable solvent Cyrene and new solvent Cygnet 0.0 showed that they have enhanced performance in the production of membranes, as well as when used as solvents in the bio-catalysed synthesis of polyesters. This work opens up a wealth of possibilities to replace toxic, fossil-based solvents throughout polymer chemistry.

Research from the University of York explored the use of a binary solvent system of bio-based Cyrene and another levoglucosenone (LGO) derivative Cygnet 0.0 in a variety of polymer applications. Individually or as mixtures, these two bio-based solvents show excellent promise in industrial chemistry.

Professor James Clark, from the University of York’s Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence and lead researcher on the project said, “We need a good number of new bio-based solvents to help us move towards a genuinely green and sustainable solvent toolkit. Cygnet 0.0 and its mixtures with Cyrene are positive steps in this direction.”

He continued, “As with Cyrene, Cygnet 0.0 offers a set of polarity properties never seen before in carbohydrate solvents and with Cygnet 0.0 there are exciting similarities to the halogenated solvent DCM (dichloromethane). In our research, we utilised these unique properties to help us achieve outstanding performance in polymer and membrane synthesis. Following this current research, further applications of Cygnet 0.0 are now being explored and developed.”

Tony Duncan, CEO and co-founder of Circa Group said, “Replacing chlorinated solvents such as toxic DCM is a real challenge for industry and we are delighted that Cygnet 0.0 shows good performance in a range of applications. This is further proof that highly-sustainable, bio-derived products have an important role to play in transforming processes and delivering a lower carbon global economy”.

Circa’s Furacell process reduces the solvents’ carbon footprint by up to 80% compared to similar petro-based solvents with zero SOx and NOx emissions at the end-of-life stages of Cyrene and Cygnet 0.0.

Dr Jane Murray, Global Head of Green Chemistry, the Life Science business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany added, “The scientific community is increasingly requesting greener alternative products and this latest research increases our understanding of the role that levoglucosenone derivatives can play in a range of industrially significant applications. We are excited to continue our partnership with Circa in this area.”

Established in 2006, Circa Group converts waste, non-food biomass into advanced bio-based chemicals with its proprietary Furacell process. Its developing product portfolio includes flavours, biopolymers and bio-solvents including Cyrene, an alternative to traditional polar aprotic solvents, which is produced in one step from platform biomolecule levoglucosenone. By creating renewable chemicals from cellulose, Circa is extracting value from non-food, waste biomass and addressing a gap in the market by providing bio-based alternatives contributing to a more circular economy.


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