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York launches green solvent service

Posted on 5 October 2015

Scientists at the University of York have launched a service to design and produce environmentally friendly solvents for industrial purposes.

The Sustainable Solvent Selection Service (S4), based in York’s Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence (GCCE), will produce safe, renewable alternatives to traditional solvents - industrial chemicals needed for manufacturing, cleaning, and the separation of substances.

Around 20 million tonnes of solvents are consumed annually across the world, and are often used in far greater quantities than any other manufacturing chemical. Typically volatile organic compounds, conventional solvents are responsible for air pollution through smog formation and ozone depletion, and are often flammable, explosive and toxic.

Now, strict legislation is addressing the problem of dangerous chemicals, resulting in the imminent ban of several vital solvents. In order to provide alternatives, S4 will design bespoke benign solvents for industrial processes, made from renewable resources with a low environmental impact.

One such solvent is Cyrene - a new bio-based solvent produced from forestry by-products including sawdust. Created in partnership with the UK branch of Circa Group, Cyrene is biodegradable and less toxic than conventional solvents due to its unique chemical structure.

Circa Group has a long-standing partnership with the GCCE. Recently awarded an ERDF Capital Grants Scheme issued by the Biorenewables Development Centre, a new computer installed with the latest solvent modelling software (COSMO-RS) has been purchased by Circa Group for the generation of a family of new, green solvent candidates.

Professor James Clark, Director of the GCCE, said: "S4 is providing the means to address the serious safety, health and environmental problems with solvents - common industrial pollutants - with commercially relevant research and product development.

“We are delighted to announce our new capabilities in solvent design, including our partnership with Circa, and we hope this will lead to more examples of greener, sustainable solvents in the near future and will strengthen our position as a leader in alternative solvent research."

S4 includes a bespoke Industrial Engagement Facility for business to business and business to academic discussions, solvent design and product testing, and will establish new commercial supply chains with key partners, including solvent users, manufacturers and expert groups.

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