[X]

CSIR develops new technology that produces sought-after natural Ambrafuran

Publication Date: 
Friday, August 20, 2021

The CSIR has developed an innovative solution using biocatalysis and green chemistry to produce natural Ambrafuran – a highly sought-after agent in the fragrance industry that is used as a fixative for very expensive fragrances.

Contact Person

Charmaine Twala

ctwala@csir.co.za

The CSIR has developed an innovative solution using biocatalysis and green chemistry to produce natural Ambrafuran – a highly sought-after agent in the fragrance industry that is used as a fixative for very expensive fragrances.

“(-) Ambrafuran (Ambrox ® from Firmenich) is a very sought-after fixative used in the fragrance industry, more specifically perfumes, and there is a significant international market requiring ton quantities. Natural Ambrafuran was previously obtained from ambra chunks excreted by the sperm whale and which, because of oxidations and changes taking place during exposure on the sea surface, makes this source of the product very limited,” explains Dr Lucia Steenkamp, the research leader for the project.   

Synthetic chemical routes were then developed, and the current process creates 207 kg of waste for every 1 kg of product produced and uses eight chemical steps, which include harsh chemicals and chemical conditions, and the first chemical step alone takes eight days.  

“The CSIR technology uses only two steps. In the first bioconversion step, seven chemical steps are replaced with a single biocatalytic step. A new green environmentally benign zeolite step completes the production to (-) Ambrafuran. The bioconversion is complete within 96 hours and the final zeolite cyclodehydration step only takes one hour. Only 40 L of waste are produced per kilogram of product. This waste can simply be autoclaved and disposed of in normal sewage,” Steenkamp adds.

The CSIR is seeking a partner to license and commercialise the technology. The product has been optimised up to 50 L scale. If a plant needs to be constructed, the CSIR has facilities to start with the commercialisation, while construction is ongoing.