CSIR develops new technology that produces sought after natural Ambrafuran
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 as a result of oxidations and changes taking place during exposure on the sea surface. “This source of the product is very limited,” explains Lucia Steenkamp, the research leader for the project.
Synthetic chemical routes were developed and the current commercial route uses eight chemical steps which include harsh chemicals and chemical conditions. The first chemical step takes eight days. The current commercial process also creates 207 kg of waste for every 1 kg of product produced.
“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 40L of waste is produced per kilogram of product. This waste can simply be autoclaved and disposed in normal sewage,” Lucia adds.
CSIR is seeking a partner to license and commercialise the technology. The product has been optimized up to 50L scale. If a plant needs to be constructed, the CSIR has facilities to start with the commercialisation while construction is ongoing.