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Scientists work towards developing cosmetic ingredients from essential oils

By Simon Pitman , 13-Dec-2012
Last updated the 14-Dec-2012 at 12:32 GMT

An international team of scientists has revealed it is getting close to developing a technology that will transform essential oils into high-value and sustainable alternative ingredients for a range of cosmetic applications.

The scientists, from both the Universdade Federal de Minas Gerais, in Brazil and the University of Ottawa, in Canada, say that their research is a new approach to tapping biomass as a sustainable raw materials.

The report, which is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, highlights how the biomass could benefit from the new technology to develop ingredients for a wide range of applications, including fragrances, sunscreens and personal care products in general.

Tapping into sustainability and naturals trend

Lead researchers Deryn Fogg and Eduardo dos Santos explain that their research into breaking up plant material into ingredients for making cosmetic products is getting a lot of attention because it taps into the big trends for both sustainability and natural-based ingredients.

The work has centred on a complementary approach, which, according to the researchers, involves enhancing the complexity of substances found naturally in plants in ways that form antioxidants and other components that are regarded as particularly pertinent to consumer demands.

Currently methods to make ingredients from plant biomass are often time-consuming, costly and wasteful, which is why the scientists turned to metathesis, a method that won the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Method to develop ingredients from biomass

Developed from Nobel Prize-winning technology

The award was given to a team of scientists at the University of Florida, led by Robert H Grubbs, relating to its work in the area of olefin metathesis, which focuses on the organic reaction associated with the redistribution of olefins by cutting out and regenerating carbon-carbon chemical bonds.

In the current research article, the team of researchers describe how they have developed this method of metathesis in the laboratory to transform compounds in essential oils into highly valuable personal care product ingredients.

“These methodologies offer the potential for economic expansion via the sustainable cultivation and elaboration of high-return source species in the tropical countries that represent the major producers of essential oils,” say the researchers.

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