Levulinic acid is an organic compound which is deemed to replace petroleum based products, in sectors such as chemical industry and bio-fuel among others, in the near future. It has been classified as a keto acid and is generally produced from brewery waste, biomass and manure among others. Levulinic acid can also be produced by acidic hydrolysis of furfuryl alcohol, by hydrolyzing acetyl succinate esters and by ozone based oxidation of ketones. It is a white crystalline solid and is also known as 4-oxopentanoic acid. In principle, it is formed by heating sucrose along with concentrated acid. Formic acid is also formed during the process.
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Levulinic acid is soluble in water, diethyl ether and ethanol but is insoluble in aliphatic hydrocarbons. It has a molar mass of 116.11g/mol and a density of 1.14g/cm3. Levulinic acid is comparatively non-toxic in nature, having a LD50 of 1850 mg/kg. Levulinic acid is deemed to posses the potential of replacing phthalate plasticizers. This is because of the presence of ketal monomers of natural origin which can bind with the poly-vinyl chloride (PVC) molecules firmly. It is also used as precursors of plasticizers and pharmaceuticals among others. Biofuels such as ethyl levulinate, methyltetrahydrofuran and valerolactone are also being prepared with levulinic acid.
The growth of the market for levulinic acid can be primarily attributed to its potential of replacing phthalate plasticizers used for manufacturing PVC. This is because PVC is widely used for manufacture of various products across different industry verticals, such as healthcare, automotives and packaging among others. Additionally, levulinic acid is relatively less toxic while phthalate plasticizers can pose health concerns for children. Furthermore, with increasing research and development (R&D), levulinic acid is being utilized as food additives, pharmaceutical manufacturing, biofuel production and pesticides among others. It is also used in cigarettes for increasing nicotine content, being delivered by the smoke. However, the main constraint of levulinic acid market is the bio-based production of it in large scale. Bio-based production of levulinic acid is currently unable to match the selling price of levulinic acid manufactured from other sources, though the production quantity is much higher. With heightening interest in levulinic acid and increasing fund allocation on R&D of manufacturing technology, the restraints faced by the levulinic acid market can be expected to be overcome in the near future.
The levulinic acid market can be segmented by applications into agriculture, cosmetics, food & beverages, pharmaceuticals and others. Additionally, levulinic acid market can be geographically segmented into North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific (APAC) and rest of the world (ROW).
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Some of the key companies leading the levulinic acid market are GFBiochemicals, Ltd. (Italy), Segetis, Inc. (U.S.), Heroy Chemical Industry Co., Ltd. (China), Parchem fine & specialty chemicals (U.S.), Tokyo Chemical Industry Co. Ltd. (Japan), E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (U.S.), Biofine Technology LLC (U.S.), China Shijiazhuang Pharmaceutical Group Co. Ltd. (China), Apple Flavor & Fragrance Group Co., Ltd. (China) and Hebei Langfang Triple Well Chemicals Co., Ltd (China) among others.