MSE Research Project Database

Medicinal agriculture: alkaloid extraction

Project Leader: Kathryn Mumford
Collaborators: Yue Wu
Primary Contact: Kathryn Mumford (
Keywords: liquid-liquid systems
Disciplines: Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Traditional solvent extraction processes for pharmaceutical manufacture typically rely on volatile organic compound (VOC) solvents from petrochemicals to extract active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). Due to their unsustainable nature, as well as other regulatory, economic, environmental and health concerns, pressure to replace VOCs with green alternatives is increasing.

This project investigates the replacement of VOCs with bio-based solvents, extracting natural pharmaceutical products (eg, alkaloids) from opium poppy straw. The project involves the evaluation of a range of alternatives of bio-based solvents and extractants, both with model compounds and alkaloids, identifying a promising combined solvent system to replace these VOCs along with identifying and investigating physical properties and performance data. This solvent system is further implemented in a pilot scale Karr column, and combined with modelling techniques to predict industrial scale performance.