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Bio-based solvent awarded prestigious international award

Posted on 20 June 2017

A bio-based solvent developed in the Green Chemistry labs at the University of York has been awarded a prestigious international award for innovation.


Cyrene is a renewably sourced, safe replacement for several widely-used petroleum-derived solvents,  recently identified by the EU as being toxic and which will have severely restricted future use.  

The product recently picked up the ‘Bio-based Innovation of the Year’ award at a ceremony held at the University of Amsterdam.

The panel of expert judges described Cyrene as “truly innovative” and a “major breakthrough.” 


Cyrene was developed by Circa in conjunction with Professor James Clark’s team at the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence at the University of York and leading life science and biotechnology company Sigma-Aldrich.

Professor Clark said: “The Cyrene story is barely four years old, yet it has already led to the first pilot plant in Tasmania producing one tonne of the new product per week.

“It has featured in several publications and resulted in several patents; research funding from industry and the EU and now this international prize. It’s a great example of how we can move quickly from invention to commercialisation.”

“Since these toxic solvents are used in applications ranging from the manufacture of pharmaceuticals to the preparation of advanced materials like graphene, the potential for Cyrene is vast and covers established and new industries.”

EU Project

Tony Duncan, CEO and co-founder of Circa Group, said: “All results to date indicate Cyrene is a safer, healthier, high-performance alternative to traditional solvents and it continues to surprise researchers with its unique properties. We are glad that its exciting potential continues to be recognised.”

Meanwhile, the University of York is leading on a EU project focusing on replacing traditional, fossil-based solvents.

The project consortium is comprised of 11 partners from five different countries, including Circa Group subsidiary company Circa Sustainable Chemicals UK Ltd.

ReSolve, an abbreviation of ‘Renewable solvents with high performance in applications and improved toxicity profiles’, is a three-year project looking for alternatives to substances categorised as very high concern under European regulations.

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