Plant-based essential oils are being tapped for important and high value ingredients for sunscreens, perfumes, and other personal care items. The term biomass refers to biological material or recently living organisms, and most often refers to plants or plant-derived materials.
This new approach for tapping biomass as a sustainable raw material is called metathesis and was the topic of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
This technique may very well replace the usual raw materials obtained from petroleum. In fact, breaking down plant material into ingredients for making a host of commercial products is very attractive due to its sustainability, not to mention low cost.
Researchers decided to test the complimentary approach by enhancing the complexity of substances found naturally in plants in ways that produce antioxidants and other ingredients commonly found in cosmetics. These ingredients are often expensive, wasteful, and resource intensive.
Scientists have discovered metathesis can be used in the laboratory to transform compounds into essential oils which can then be used in expensive and high value personal care ingredients. The process is completely sustainable and better for the environment. Researchers are excited by metathesis’ possibilities since they see it as a method for economic expansion through the maintainable cultivation and expansion of high-yield source species in the tropics that produce these essential oils.