Synbio Perfumery: Making Smells and Flavors with Microbes

19/10/2015 - 4 minutes

Isobionics is a biotech from the Netherlands that specializes in synthetic bio-production of natural essential oils and flavorings for use in the food, perfume and detergent industry. On the other hand, Evolva, from Basel, are estimated to produce up to $500M worth of synthetic vanilla essence for the industry each year. Using bacteria and yeast to produce hugely important ingredients such as patchouli, valencene and vanillin has meant these industries haven’t collapsed due to over-demand and poor crop yield of these essential oils.

Patchouli is one of the essential oils which constitute the traditional perfume, and today the fragrance industry is still strongly dependent on its characteristics for cosmetics, air fresheners and certain laundry detergents. Traditionally it is harvested from steam-extraction of the mint-like plant Pogostemon cablin, which is farmed in many counties such as India and China.

Historically, patchouli was a symbol of great luxury and wealth, which is speculated to have been born due to its use on the silk road as an insect repellent during trade transport of fine silks and textiles during the 18-19th century.

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