Ionic Liquids: Have New Green Properties Using Wood Molecules

First Posted: Oct 26, 2015 12:43 PM EDT

A team of researchers have given ionic liquids some new properties, using molecules from wood to create green chemistry among ionic liquids, according to a news release.

"Our discovery is a scientific breakthrough. This is the launch that enables us to extract small key molecules directly from wood. There are many applications not in the least in the production of ethanol as fuel but also a number of other things," said Magnus Wolf-Watz, associate chemistry professor at Umea University in Sweden.

The researchers' discovery paves the way for enzymes to perform their catalytical processes (chemical reactions) through a potentially green process. Catalytical processes involve the chemical and biochemical processes, where catalyst species speed up the rate of chemical reactions. This new discovery will enable enzymatic refinement of cellulose to precious molecules, and industrial products, according to the researchers.

Ionic liquids are salts in a liquid state during room temperature, unlike typical kitchen salt, which melts at 800 degrees Celsius.

The researchers used nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy NMR technology to create the new enzymatic activity method. The process was based on real time measurements, and of the chemical reaction using 31P NMR spectroscopy, according to the researchers.

Ionic liquids are used in many applications, as they act as potent solvents and as electrical conducting fluids (electrolytes) and they are essential for electric batteries.   

"This development will be of major importance to the measurement of enzymatic catalysis in complex solutions and preparations and the method is already being used in new projects," said Jyri-Pekka Mikkola, chemistry professor at Umea University.

The results of this study was published in the journal ChemSusChem.

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