Ethyl lactate as a solvent: Properties, applications and productionprocesses – a review
Carla S. M. Pereira, Viviana M. T. M. Silva* and Al´ırio E. Rodrigues
Received 6th May 2011, Accepted 11th July 2011
Ethyl lactate is an environmentally benign solvent with effectiveness comparable topetroleum-based solvents. The worldwide solvent market is about 30 million pounds per year, whereethyl lactate can have an important share. It is considered a chemical commodity and has attractedmuch attention in recent years, since it is formed by the esteriﬁcation reaction of ethanol and lacticacid, which can be generated from biomass raw materials through fermentation. In this work, anoverview regarding the main properties and applications of ethyl lactate, as well as its synthesis andproduction processes, with a particular emphasis on reactive/separation processes, is presented.
Organic esters are a very important class of chemicals havingapplications in a variety of areas in the chemical industry, suchasperfumes,ﬂavours,pharmaceuticals,plasticizers,solventsandintermediates.
Ethyl lactate is an important monobasic ester,also known as lactic acid ethyl ester (IUPAC name: Ethyl (
)-2-hydroxypropanoate), with molecular formula C
(seeFig. 1). It is a clear to slightly yellow liquid, and it is foundnaturallyinsmallquantitiesinawidevarietyoffoods,includingwine, chicken, and some fruits.Ethyl lactate can be either in the levo (
) or dextro (
) forms,and it is industrially produced as a racemic mixture througha reversible reaction between ethanol and lactic acid, whereinwater is a by-product. Lactic acid itself is a very importantchemical with applications in the food, pharmaceutical andcosmetic industries. It is also used as a monomer for the manu-facture of biodegradable polymers, as substitutes for traditionalpetrochemical polymers. Lactic acid has been produced throughboth chemical synthesis or fermentation routes. This last pro-cess is the most common,
however, lactic acid derived fromfermentation broths requires extensive puriﬁcation processesthat should be inexpensive and environmentally friendly. Ethyllactatehydrolysisisoneofthemethodsusedtoobtainpurelacticacid.
Ethyl lactate has attracted much attention in recent years,which is reﬂected in the number of articles published, as shownin Fig. 2. This is probably due to the environmental movementthat emerged in the 1970s (United Nations Conference on theHuman Environment at Stockholm in 1972). Chemical legisla-
Laboratory of Separation and Reaction Engineering (LSRE), AssociateLaboratory LSRE/LCM, Department of Chemical Engineering, Facultyof Engineering, University of Porto, Rua Dr Roberto Frias s/n,4200-465, Porto, Portugal. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Fax: +351225081674; Tel: +351 225081489
The molecular structure of ethyl lactate.
tion and environmental regulation were mainly nation based,until the 1980s. Since then, with the increase of internationalchemical trade and the knowledge of the impact of globaltrade on the environment, international environmental treaties,directives, and conventions have emerged.
Moreover, it was inthe 1980s that environmental protection was connected witheconomicdevelopment,leadingtodisseminationof“sustainabledevelopment” as a means to encourage the integration of policies across sectors (Rio Declaration on Environment andDevelopment and Johannesburg Declaration on SustainableDevelopment, informally known as Earth Summit 1992 and2002, respectively). Furthermore, with the Yom Kippur War(1973) and the subsequent Arab Oil Embargo, the IranianRevolution (between November 1978 and June 1979), andthe Iraq–Iran War (1980), crude oil production declined, and,consequently, the crude oil price increased drastically, from 3USD per barrel in 1972 up to 35 USD in 1981. More recently,the PDVSA strike (Venezuela, 2002–2003) and the Iraq War
, 2658–2671This journal is
The Royal Society of Chemistry 2011
D o w n l o a d e d b y I n s t i t u t o M i l i t a r d e E n g e n h a r i a o n 2 5 F e b r u a r y 2 0 1 2 P u b l i s h e d o n 1 5 A u g u s t 2 0 1 1 o n h t t p : / / p u b s . r s c . o r g | d o i : 1 0 . 1 0 3 9 / C 1 G C 1 5 5 2 3 G
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