Although most of us probably don’t even realize it, petroleum-based organic solvents will touch our everyday lives in many ways. For instance, they’re used as industrial cleaning agents, as reagents for chemical reactions and in the manufacturing of a multitude of products – such as many inks used for printing magazines to food labels and packaging, paints and paint thinners, adhesives, furniture polish, lubricants and many other household items. But often these fossil-derived organic solvents aren’t good for our health or the environment. We urgently need more sustainable, safer alternatives.
Produced in large quantities across the world, dimethylformamide (DMF) and N-Methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP) are solvents with a multitude of uses across different industries. For example, DMF is used is in the production of plastics, facilitating key chemical reactions in drug discovery – and NMP is widely used in drug formulation, electronics and materials manufacturing. The world production capacity of DMF is 225,000 tons worldwide per year – and around 125,000 tons/year of NMP.[1,2]
But these organic solvents are under worldwide regulatory pressure due to major concerns over their toxic effects on the reproductive system. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) classifies them on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) list of substances of very high concern, with additional restrictions for NMP soon to come into force.
That’s why we’re using green chemistry to find safer, less environmentally damaging replacements to dipolar aprotic organic solvents like DMF and NMP that still deliver on performance.