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Cellulosic Propylene Glycol Production
By: Katie Schaefer, C&T magazine
Posted: September 29, 2010, from the October 2010 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
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After applying pressure and heat, Trahanovsky found that, as expected, 25% of resulting material consisted of alkyl glucoside and levoglucosan sugar derivatives, which could be converted to glucose for ethanol production and other uses. To his surprise, however, the reaction also produced an approximate 35% mixture of a propylene glycol and ethylene glycol. Once a separation technique is developed to divide the two materials, Trahanovsky believes they can be used by a number of industries as alternatives to their petrolatum-derived counterparts.
“One of the problems is that the ethylene glycol and propylene glycol still have to be separated and purified. It is relatively easy to get a mixture of the two but it is difficult to separate [them],” said Trahanovsky. While he was unsure of the best process to separate the materials, he did envision column chromatography could be a possibility; where a solution of propylene glycol and ethylene glycol is passed down a column containing an absorbent to separate the two.
Benefits and Ongoing Work
Trahanovsky finds there are a number of benefits to using his process to develop sugar derivatives, propylene glycol and ethylene glycol.
“[The process] does not use any additional reagents such as expensive catalysts or heavy metals,” said Trahanovsky.
This means the process does not incur added costs or produce waste; even further, the starting materials are relatively inexpensive.