Bio-derived butanol for cosmetics and consumer products

Catalytic process lowers the cost of production from renewable sources and increases yields of this ubiquitous chemical

Materials Other

Navy researchers have invented a way to produce environmentally-friendly butanol, which can be used in cosmetics and other consumer products.

There is an ongoing push to move away from petrochemical products towards renewables for the purposes of better energy security, a cleaner environment, and lowered price volatility.

Butanol is among the targetted chemical because of its broad use and high volume of production. Butanol is used in a large number of products as an intermediary. It’s used in pharmaceuticals, polymers, plastics, herbicides, printing fluids, solvents, paints, and brake fluid. It’s also used in the make-up, foundations, nail polish, hygiene products, and shaving products, as well as a base for perfumes, and an extractant of essential oils. It can also be found in bath soaps, detergents, and underarm deodorants.

In the process of scaling up the production of bio-1-butanol developed by Louis Pasteur in 1862, bacteria are used to ferment sugars in water to yield acetone, 1-butanol, and ethanol. Much process engineering has gone into minimizing the yield of ethanol and acetone to get closer to a pure 1-butanol product. However, separation of water from the end product has remained a problem. The current process is both energy and time intensive, driving up costs. Several methods have been proposed and even implemented but there is no obvious and proficient method for preparing terminal bio-1-olefins efficiently from bio-1-alcohols that contain water as a major impurity.

Navy researchers have developed a catalyst system for dehydrating bio-1-alcohols to various bio-1-alkenes with high selectivity. The catalyst is a zinc oxide and alumina combination heated to ~800 C., treated with a base, washed, dried, and then treated with a chlorosilane.

This technology provides instant access to the conversion of bio-1-butanol including small to large amounts of water, to bio-1-butene with high selectivity and chemical conversion. The bio-1-butene, in turn, is useful in preparing products that are environmentally beneficial and reduce greenhouse gases compared to petroleum equivalents.

The patents covering this particular overview are part of a portfolio listed at:

These include:

8,912,373 Process for the dehydration of aqueous bio-derived terminal alcohols to terminal alkenes

9,242,226 Process for the dehydration of aqueous bio-derived terminal alcohols to terminal alkenes

9,649,626 Process for the dehydration of aqueous bio-derived terminal alcohols to terminal alkenes

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