A Re-Usable Catalyst For Vanilla Flavor Production

Scientists in India have discovered a greener method to producing vanillin, the main flavor compound in vanilla.

AsianScientist (Mar. 27, 2017) – Researchers at the Institute of Chemical Technology have developed a greener way to make vanillin, the primary flavor compound in vanilla. Their results have been published in Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.

Although consumers have been demanding more ‘natural’ foods in recent years, less than one percent of vanilla flavor produced globally comes from its original natural source, the vanilla orchid. The rest is synthesized from a petroleum-derived precursor called guaiacol, tree lignin and other substances such as cow feces.

But the catalysts currently used in the manufacturing of vanillin are polluting and can only be used once. Furthermore, vanillin production creates wastewater that requires treatment before it can be released into surface waters. So Professor Ganapati D. Yadav and Dr. Shivaji L. Bhanawase sought an improved method to make the popular flavor compound.

The researchers created a catalyst by encapsulating copper-aluminum hydrotalcite in silica. Testing showed that it efficiently spurred the separation of vanillin from other compounds. The catalyst worked in water under ambient air pressure, and eliminated the need for a polluting step involving hydrochloric acid that current techniques require.

The catalyst could also be recovered and re-used. The researchers say that their process could be economically scaled up for a more environmentally friendly approach to making commercial vanillin.

The article can be found at: Bhanawase & Yadav (2017) Novel Silica-Encapsulated Cu–Al Hydrotalcite Catalyst: Oxidative Decarboxylation of Vanillyl Mandelic Acid to Vanillin in Water at Atmospheric Pressure.


Source: American Chemical Society; Photo: Pixabay.
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