Scientists develop lucrative perfume fixative from Mexican plant

By Andrew MCDOUGALL contact

- Last updated on GMT

Scientists develop lucrative perfume fixative from Mexican plant

Related tags: Perfume

Scientists have found a more sustainable way to produce an ambergris-alternative perfume ingredient from a Mexican plant, which could prove lucrative.

Recent research efforts in the Institute of Chemical and Biological Researches at the Universidad Michoacana have led to the one-step synthesis of an important fixative from extracts of Ageratina jocotepecana (an endemic plant of the State of Michoacán in Mexico).

Ambrox is an important fixative used in the manufacture of perfumes, obtained through complex chemical synthesis routes with high costs.

This new chemical route, found by José M. Ponce-Ortega and his team, is attractive from a manufacturing perspective; however, there are several challenges for the industrial application of this plant and its incorporation in the supply chain of the perfume industry.

Challenges

The catch is that the plant would have to take a fuel-consuming, environmentally unfriendly journey across the ocean to Europe, where many perfumes are made. So Ponce-Ortega's team wanted to see whether the process would be worth it.

Conducting a supply-chain analysis, the researchers found that producing the fixative using the Mexican plant would generate considerable local profits to the tune of $20 million per year and create hundreds of jobs along the supply routes.

However, they did find an environmental cost to the process, but that could be mitigated by using renewable energy sources to produce the fixative.

Ambergris alternative

Out of the three main ingredients in perfumes, the fixatives, which allow a scent to linger on a wearer's skin rather than quickly dissipate, are often the most expensive.

A particularly coveted fixative comes from a rare whale digestive excretion called ambergris. The problem with this, as Ponce-Ortega explains is that “not only is its cost exorbitant, but its use is in perfumes in the U.S. and other countries is illegal.”

Although not as costly, the synthetic substitute still commands a high price, and requires considerable time and energy to make.

The research team hope this new alternative will be much simpler and a lot more lucrative.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Mexican Council for Science and Technology and the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolas de Hidalgo.

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