Vanilla is a flavoring found naturally in some orchids—it’s the ingredient that gives fudge its kick. Its popularity has grown over the years to the point where demand now far exceeds the amount that can be extracted from the delicate flower pods. For that reason, manufactures have looked for ways to produce it artificially. A method of using lignin found in sawdust was developed and put into use, but soon fell into disfavor due to toxic byproducts. Another method, still in use, was developed based on a petrochemical material called guaiacol, but it’s expensive and tied to oil price fluctuations. For that reason, scientists have continued to look for a cheaper, less environmentally hazardous way to use the lignin found in wood products.
In this new effort, the researchers looked to ionic liquids—salts in liquid form. Using them in commercial applications is still relatively new as they are generally quite toxic. Recently, however, developments in chemistry have led to some types that are less reactive and are therefore safer and cleaner to use. Abdullah and Shamsuri thought one of these, 1,3-dimethylimidazolium methylsulphate might be used to help synthesize vanillin.
Read more at: Phys.org