SCIENCE & RESEARCH
How a jewel becomes even more valuable
Making improvements to existing products is a core part of Symrise research. The scientists at Aroma Molecules have found a new way to more efficiently produce the aromatic substance Ambrocenide®.
Ambra Ambergris is one of the most valuable aromatic substances. For a long time, it was exclusively found in the digestive system of sperm whales. That was and is very expensive. Only a few luxury perfume manufacturers still use the substance today. The majority of it is produced synthetically. A while back, Symrise scientists developed the aromatic substance Ambrocenide®, which comes very close to the classic ambergris: ambery, woody, dry and very intense. It is purely a perfume raw material, which means that it is only used to create perfume oils – but it can be used in all kinds of perfume oils. This starts with the premium class of perfumery, then moves to Fine Fragrances, to personal care scents, shower gels, shampoos, creams, all the way to classic household products like fabric softeners, detergents and cleaners. Ambrocenide® is also used throughout the entire palette.
The base material for the synthesis is cedren, a substance derived from cedar essential oil. This makes the aromatic substance fully on trend, as it fulfills the strong demand right now for raw materials from renewable sources. Ambrocenide® also scores points in sustainability because of its very low scent threshold, meaning you can use a very small amount to have a relatively strong effect. “All of this combined makes this product very attractive,” says Dr. Marcus Eh, Director Global Marketing, Aroma Molecules. So it is very much in demand. “This made us consider how we could produce the aromatic substance much more efficiently, and we went to Rostock to meet with researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Catalysis,” Dr. Eh continues. The step in this direction was a short one, since the Institute (LIKAT) and Symrise have been working together in a number of different areas for years. And, according to Dr. Eh, the scientists have been working on these types of reactions for a long time now.
Dr. Johannes Panten (left) and Dr. Marcus Eh have considered how to produce Ambrocenide more efficiently.
SHORTER AND MORE EFFICIENT The project ran for about a year and a half. In the initial laboratory phase at the Leibniz Institute, the researchers ran a number of experiments. One of these crystallized, standing out as having the greatest promise: Instead of many elaborate reaction steps that produce a lot of waste, the Leibniz researchers found a significantly shorter, more efficient method to get to the desired result. The new method was tested in the Symrise process optimization lab. “We tried to reproduce the result parameters,” Dr. Eh explains. A pilot campaign followed, in which a few hundred kilograms of the substance were produced. “This scaling was successful, and with the help of the technical team, the process was transferred to a technical scale,” reports Dr. Johannes Panten, Innovations Technology Scouting, Scent & Care. “For us, this clearly shows that we can produce our valuable Ambrocenide® – ultimately the jewel of our Aroma Molecules portfolio – much more efficiently and using far fewer source materials,” adds Dr. Eh.
PROTECTING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY Aroma Molecules has established a patent family for Ambrocenide®. Anything that relates to the further development of Ambrocenide® is the intellectual property of Symrise, which is protected. “Optimizations and improvements are an important part of our research efforts, since our products are what we are competing with,” emphasizes Dr. Eh. “This also includes the improved manufacturing process that we developed with LIKAT and transferred to a technical scale.”
This new process is another step toward even more sustainable production. Because the chemical reaction is much more targeted and selective and has a greater yield, the amount of necessary raw materials is reduced and less waste and fewer byproducts are produced. Both of these are in line with the principles of green chemistry. “That’s why this project clearly aligns with our company goal of making production processes even more sustainable,” says Dr. Panten. “And the more competitively we can position our processes and products, the more we then also contribute to the growth of Symrise.”