As healthy as… a solvent

It works great and easily removes varnish from various surfaces. And it’s green. Obviously not in terms of color, but its ecological properties. Polish scientists invented an extraordinary solvent that is neither carcinogenic nor detrimental to the environment.

Technologists have worked on green solutions for years. The future of our planet and next generations is on the line so the stake is high. In Western countries efforts continue to invent environment-neutral substances with the same properties. But it is Poland where the exceptional solvent has been created – ecological, biodegradable and efficient. The idea was born in Wrocław, in Prof. Piotr Sobota’s mind.

Prof. Sobota works as a chemist at the EIT+ Research Center in Wrocław. He is assisted by Rafał Petrus (Ph.D) and Dominik Bykowski. It is not about the solvent itself but about the method it is acquired. This is what we call a great scale innovation:

–          There are two forms of the same chemical compound. Our method is simple. We put polylactide to the reactor box. We add ethyl alcohol. The two ingredients are heated and mixed for about an hour. What we get is a colorless liquid that comes out through a little faucet at the bottom part of the box. The solvent is ready. It can be additionally purified through distillation to get a top quality product, but it’s not a must – says Prof. Sobota in the interview for

The method is innovative. The solvent itself is not a novelty. The chemical technology that I worked out allows to make a green thinner faster and cheaper than by other methods. The quality is very high, too. It is a very clean product with no pollutants, underlines Prof. Sobota.

Obviously, he hasn’t revealed a secret that makes his invention exceptional:

–          Besides polylactide and the alcohol we add a certain catalyst. However, I cannot say what it is because the patent proceedings are pending. What I can say is that the catalyst works sensationally well and it’s our original concept.

The solvent that he makes (in a lab scale for the time being) is absolutely safe to the environment, unlike the thinners that are based on crude oil. This green solvent is made out of natural products, namely the alcohol.

What applications does it have? It works great as a nail varnish, paint lacquer, graffiti remover or as an additive to floor washing liquid. It dissolves cellulose and most kinds of resin. It can be applied in chemical, food, cosmetic, pharmaceutical and farming industries.

Even though many ideas are innovative and prospective, they hit a barrier of “no means for implementation”. Fortunately, it hasn’t been the case with Prof. Sobota and his team. An investor showed up and the ecosolvent may be manufactured on a massive scale very soon.

–          I am capitalizing now on 40 years of my professional career. They say that in Poland there is no money for concept commercialization. But from my own experience I can say that if you work hard and successfully, then an investor knocks on your door. It is a good news not only for scientists but also for tax payers who finance our long-standing laboratory work, he says.

Prof. Piotr Sobota graduated from chemical studies at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, Wrocław University, in 1966. His academic achievements include over 180 papers published in foreign prestigious magazines. He cooperates with pharmaceutical companies and public research centers worldwide: in the UK, Portugal, USA, Canada, Germany and Ukraine.




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źródło: State of the World's Cities Report 2012/2013