Biotechnology progress

Lipase-catalyzed transformations for the synthesis of butyl lactate: a comparison between esterification and transesterification.

PMID 16599560


The alpha-hydroxy esters are increasingly employed in cosmetic, food, and pharmaceutical formulations as they determine reduced skin-irritant effects in comparison with the respective acids, offering similar hygroscopic, emulsifying, and exfoliating properties. The enzymatic synthesis of lactate esters in nonaqueous systems was studied as regards the influence of the critical process parameters, to enable a comparison between the most commonly used synthetic routes, namely, esterification and transesterification. The experimental results showed that the direct esterification of lactic acid with butanol may be limited by the reduced lipase stability in the presence of the acid (substrate) and of the water (product), in particular when solvent-free media are used. The stability of the enzyme is further reduced as polar solvents are required as a result of the polarity of the lactic acid. Therefore, the use of the lactic acid as substrate is of practical interest only when the acid is significantly cheaper in comparison with its short-chain esters. If this is not the case, the transesterification of the ethyl lactate with butanol is to be preferred for the higher flexibility in the choice of the experimental conditions, the operability of solvent-free systems, and the simplicity of the product removal assembly.

Related Materials

Product #



Molecular Formula

Add to Cart

Butyl lactate, 98%