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The Value of Green Processing

By: Stephanie K. Clendennen, PhD and Neil W. Boaz, PhD
Posted: October 9, 2008, from the October 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Practical application has demonstrated that the solvent-free, greener biocatalytic process saves more than 10 liters of organic solvent per kilogram of product in reaction and post-processing waste. Solvent-free systems also offer better volumetric production, and, in many cases, the purity of the final product at the end of the reaction is greater than 90%, eliminating the need for post-reaction processing (Tufvesson et al., 2006; Aracil et al., 2000, Veit 2004).

Ingredients and Benefits

As Thomas Veit has pointed out in Engineering in Life Sciences, however, there are still hurdles to the industry-wide adoption of solvent-free biocatalysis for the manufacture of high-volume cosmetic ingredients. Chief among these is the high cost of a biocatalyst compared to a traditional chemical catalyst. In the production of high-performance functional ingredients, the contribution of the biocatalyst cost is justified. The biocatalytic production of lower-cost ingredients requires a large number of enzyme turnovers during the useful life of the biocatalyst to overcome the inherent catalyst cost difference. This becomes an engineering exercise, and the efficiency of using solvent-free conditions becomes a distinct advantage.

However, the biocatalytic production of cosmetic ingredients allows suppliers and marketers to communicate a more in-depth green story that includes chapters on saved energy and the elimination of solvent and waste.

A comprehensive story will be required to demonstrate the overall ecological impact of green-processed ingredients compared with more traditionally processed synthetic counterparts. And this story, in addition to processes, will also include such diverse considerations as the geographical source of raw materials, annual renewability, packaging, mode of shipping, shelf life and biodegradability.


  1. J Aracil, M Martinez and R Soriano, Valorisation of glycerol. Enzymatic synthesis of fatty acid monoglycerides, in 1st World Conference on Biomass for Energy and Industry held June 5–9, 2000, in Sevilla Spain, S Kyritsis, London: Earthscan 1047–1050 (2001)
  2. P Tufvesson, A Annerling, R Hatti-Kaul and
  3. D Adlercreutz, Solvent-free enzymatic synthesis of fatty alkanolamides, Biotechnol Bioeng 97 447–53 (2006)
  4. T Veit, Biocatalysis for the production of cosmetic ingredients, Eng Life Sci 4 508–511 (2004)