How can sugars, aminoacids or natural organic acids be seen as the new alternative solvents for chemical process engineering, when they are typically solid at room temperature? This will be the central focus of project Des.solve – When solids become liquids: natural deep eutectic solvents for chemical process engineering, for which SponGES researcher Ana Rita Duarte (UMINHO) just received a new ERC Consolidating grant.
Ana Rita, a chemical engineer at 3B’s Research Group (Biomaterials, Biodegradables and Biomimetics), University of Minho, is the second SponGES researcher to receive an ERC grant this year after the ERC Starting grant to Jasper de Goeij (UvA) earlier in 2016.
When combined at a particular molar fraction these molecules present a high melting point depression, becoming liquids at room temperature. These are called Natural Deep Eutectic Solvents – NADES. Decreasing the impact of solvents has been a constant pursue of modern chemical engineering. Since the early 90’s, when the principles of green chemistry were established, scientists attempt to develop alternative solvents. This has also been driven by an increasing global awareness of the need for a sustainable development. Ionic liquids (IL) were the first breakthrough alternative solvents reported and the number of scientific manuscripts in the literature has grown exponentially over the past two decades. Nevertheless IL “greenness” is often challenged, mainly due to their poor biodegradability, biocompatibility and sustainability. Furthermore, IL’s are extremely expensive solvents, given the fact that the chemical synthesis to produce them often requires several production steps. NADES can overcome most of the limitations of IL’s and they are envisaged to play a major role on different chemical engineering processes in the future. Nonetheless, there is a significant lack of fundamental and basic research on NADES, which is hindering their industrial applications. For this reason it is important to extend the knowledge on these systems, boosting their application development. NADES applications go beyond chemical or materials engineering and cover a wide range of fields from biocatalysis, extraction, electrochemistry, carbon dioxide capture or biomedical applications. Des.solve will nicely combine with SponGES research looking into the biotechnological potential of deepsea sponges.
Congratulations Ana Rita!