Introduction: How to Isolate Splenda

Picture of How to Isolate Splenda

Millions of people enjoy the fake sweetener in the little yellow package every day.

What they may not know is that the sweetening agent is only a minor component of what's in the packet. Would you like to get your hands on some pure, uncut sucralose? I know that I would.

Now, before you ask, you don't need fancy equipment or laboratory conditions to do this. If, however, you are like me - a grad student with some time to kill on the weekend - it sure doesn't hurt.

Step 1: Educate!

Picture of Educate!

The active ingredient in Splenda, sucralose, is closely related to sucrose. In a five-step synthesis, three positions on the sugar are chlorinated, which renders it both indigestible and intensely sweet.

Like, 600 times sweeter than sugar.

So, if you got a sugar-sized packet of pure sucralose, your iced tea would taste like rock candy. So, Splenda actually contains mostly flavorless maltodextrin.

But how do we separate the sucralose from the maltodextrin?

Well, the chlorine atoms make sucralose much more hydrophobic (oil-liking) than an ordinary sugar like maltodextrin. So, by using a nonpolar solvent like acetone or isopropanol the sucralose can be dissolved and the maltodextrin filtered off.

For you organic chemistry fans out there, I've included the synthesis below.

Step 2: Accumulate!

Picture of Accumulate!

Get the following together:

A bundle of Splenda packets.
Some filter paper - Coffee filters work well.
Two small containers
Either acetone, isopropanol - the drier the better - or Everclear. Everclear will result in the least unsavory residue at the end, but might take some maltodextrin along with it.

Eight packets hold a little more than eight grams of Splenda.

Step 3: Agitate!

Picture of Agitate!

Pour some solvent over your splenda and stir it vigorously. Stir it! Pump that arm!

Step 4: Separate! Filtrate!

Picture of Separate! Filtrate!

Let the solution settle, and carefully pour the liquid off through a piece of filter paper. A coffee filter will do in a pinch.

Repeat the agitation step once more to make sure you get all the sucralose out.

Step 5: Evaporate! Isolate!

Picture of Evaporate! Isolate!

Pour the filtered solvent/splenda mixture into a wide container and place in a well-ventilated area for a few days. The solvent will evaporate, leaving behind a thin film of pure sucralose. This stuff is so sweet, even sniffing it deeply will make your mouth water.

If you have access to lab equipment (or perhaps the MOST AWESOME KITCHEN EVER), you can cheat and strip the solvent off using a rotary evaporator, like I did.

I'm sure the question you're asking yourself is - can I taste it? If you used everclear, oh yes. It will be quite an experience. If you used isopropanol, it might be clean enough to sample - a little won't kill you. If you used acetone, I wouldn't recommend eating it.



DanaP1 (author)2014-12-06

I am helping my son with a science experiment involving Splenda. We were counting on smaller particles dissolving faster in hot water. The additives were Splenda, table sugar, and coarse sea salt. The sugar dissolved faster than the Splenda and I'm unsure why. Any ideas?

mrsmerwin (author)DanaP12017-01-23

Maybe it is the maltodextrin that takes so long to dissolve. Can you get some plain maltodextrin to compare it to?

ALogan97 (author)2012-05-21

As an alternate method (because this utterly refuses to work for me), could one use steam distillation? It apparently works for essential oil production, but would the sucralose be too heavy for the steam to carry? Or would the distillate still contain maltodextrin? I doubt that the steam distillation process would work for this, but I'm unsure, so I shall ask your opinions on it.

Mongpoovian (author)ALogan972012-05-29

Steam distillation is ideal for separating an immiscible mixture of two liquids, which is why it works so well for essential oil distillation. I don't think you'd get a measurable amount of sucralose out of a steam distillation.

And to your other comment - you could probably burn of the alcohol to speed recovery. Just be careful to avoid scorching!

ALogan97 (author)2012-05-19

If we use isopropanol, could we burn it off to speed up the evaporation process, or would this negatively affect the resulting sucralose?

aakemp123 (author)2011-10-16

If something is hydrophobic, that doesn't necessarily mean it likes oil, it means the substance doesn't like water. Acetone is a polar substance and wouldn't work in this experiment the same way isopropanol would. Good idea for an experiment though!

rhangatoby (author)2010-09-25

wait, if we shouldnt eat it if we used acetone, then why use acetone?

sijmad (author)2009-01-20

Is acetone is a "non polar" solvent? That is strange!!

Mongpoovian (author)sijmad2009-01-20

Well, it's non-polar compared to water. In the total spectrum of solvents it would be considered closer to the polar end, but you can't buy ether or benzene at the hardware store.

DeusXMachina (author)Mongpoovian2009-04-18

Sure you can! Ether comes in the aerosol engine starter fluid cans. And while you can't find benzene, you can use toluene or xylene, which are effectively the same in terms of hydrophobic properties.

Arano (author)DeusXMachina2010-09-23

you should not use benzene, as it causes cancer. toluene is does not (or at least there is no proof it does).

Mongpoovian (author)Arano2010-09-24

I'm not sure if toluene or benzene would work as well, they might be too far into nonpolar territory to really dissolve the sucralose. Plus, the boiling point of toluene is prohibitively high, so it would take days to remove all the solvent residue from your product.

Looking into the patents for sucralose, it looks like ethyl acetate is the solvent of choice for dissolution or extraction - now all we have to do is find a way to purify it from nail polish remover...

Arano (author)Mongpoovian2010-09-24

boilingpoint does not matter very much... its more about vapor pressure... and for your acethone its about a quarter atm at 20°C so all your acethone will vaporise very quick, as long as the acethone-vapor has no partial pressure of a quarter atm.

ArcticLiz (author)2010-06-06

Hey! uhm.. I gotta question.. you still remember how much acethone you used?? Thanks! :D

Mongpoovian (author)ArcticLiz2010-06-06

I think I used two 40-50 ml portions of solvent. It was a while ago, though...

ArcticLiz (author)Mongpoovian2010-06-06

oh.. I guess it will be useful.. thanks! :D

Mongpoovian (author)ArcticLiz2010-06-06

What sort of isolation do you need to do?

ArcticLiz (author)Mongpoovian2010-06-07

isolate the sucralose from Splenda (:

ArcticLiz (author)2010-06-05

Hey! Thanks so much! Believe it or not I NEEDED some sort of isolation like this one for my chem class.. :D thanks sooo much!

Mongpoovian (author)ArcticLiz2010-06-05

Glad it could help!

REA (author)2009-08-18

what could the sucralose be used for once isolated?

Mongpoovian (author)REA2009-08-18

I'm still working on that one...

REA (author)Mongpoovian2009-08-18

perhaps its flamable? or explosive?or can react with stable molecules to make them radioactive?

Pie Ninja (author)2008-12-12

Instead of Everclear would it be possible to use pure ethanol?

delphinkid (author)Pie Ninja2009-03-15

Everclear is essentially just ethanol in itself, so pure ethanol would work.

Pie Ninja (author)delphinkid2009-03-15

sweeeeet. (quite literally, actually :P)

montdor1 (author)2008-12-28

Kitchen chemistry heaven. My question, and I mean this deeply and only in the spirit of information, is if there are any psychoactive properties to pure sucralose. And what are some uses for it? Is it a precursor to anything worthwhile, whatever that means?

delphinkid (author)montdor12009-03-15

No, sucralose is basically ordinary household sugar but with a few substituted chlorine atoms. If you could convert it back to sucrose or another sugar I suppose you could use it to make ethanol, but that would be a really inefficient way of doing it.

Koolraap (author)2009-01-25

What is everclear composed of ? i live in Holland and I'm pretty sure they don't have that brand over here :}

Mongpoovian (author)Koolraap2009-01-25

Here in the US, at least, it's more commonly known as grain alcohol - look for 95% (or 190 proof) on the label.

marine12320 (author)2008-12-05

isopropanol is just isopropyl alchohol right? also, if i have like 90% Isopropyl alchohol, is it safe to taste a tiny bit of the sucralose?

Mongpoovian (author)marine123202008-12-05

Yeah, isopropanol is the same as isopropyl alcohol. People can tolerate isopropanol in small amounts pretty well, so a little taste won't hurt you. If you're worried about the alcohol, just let the solid sit in a warm place until you can't smell the alcohol anymore - most people can smell it at about 22 parts per million, which means that if you can't smell it on the solid, it isn't a threat.

dniloc2cv (author)2008-11-25

Not completely sure but USA plant is about 50 miles from me an I think one of the primary ingredients is Clorine...some such HazMat.

whorger (author)2008-11-02

There is an acetone that is supposed to be as free of contaminants as possible. It's called "optics grade" acetone, and is used in the final cleaning process for the highest quality optical mirrors.

Still, having any thing in my mouth that once came in contact with acetone makes me shiver!

Give me sodium hydroxide (lye) anytime: re: ludafisk.

lobo_pal (author)2008-10-28

I like your rhyming steps, it makes science seem cool. Yes I do realize how geeky that sounded.

Mongpoovian (author)lobo_pal2008-10-28

I try my best. :)

lobo_pal (author)Mongpoovian2008-10-29

Is it save to eat, or will the sweetness make your toungh explode or something?

Mongpoovian (author)lobo_pal2008-10-29

As long as you use a non-toxic solvent, it's perfectly safe to eat.

AZsid (author)2008-10-23

So, if you use Everclear and don't evaporate it off you would be left with a super sweetened mixer?

Mongpoovian (author)AZsid2008-10-23

I think you would indeed.

Father Christmas (author)2008-10-21

hmm. i might suggest this to my Chem teacher this year. I took the same class last year, but i needed another credit so it took it anyway. this could prove very entertaining...

wingbatwu (author)2008-10-17

What I'd like to know is how to isolate stevioside and rebaudioside from stevia leaves...

mr BT (author)wingbatwu2008-10-17

Too bad that some of the eventual metabolites of stevioside have been found to be mutagenic. Otherwise it would make a fantastic alternative for diabetics and anyone who could afford to drop a few pounds. I know the Japanese have been consuming it. - But I wouldn't.

JoelDude (author)mr BT2008-10-18

well you might be wrong on that statement about the mutagenic. Here's from wikipedia: "A 1985 study reporting that steviol may be a mutagen[7] has been criticized on procedural grounds that the data were mishandled in such a way that even distilled water would appear mutagenic.[8] More recent studies appear to establish the safety of steviol and its glycosides. In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) performed a thorough evaluation of recent experimental studies of stevia extracts conducted on animals and humans, and concluded that "stevioside and rebaudioside A are not genotoxic in vitro or in vivo and that the genotoxicity of steviol and some of its oxidative derivatives in vitro is not expressed in vivo."[9] The report also found no evidence of carcinogenic activity. The report also suggested the possibility of health benefits, in that "stevioside has shown some evidence of pharmacological effects in patients with hypertension or with type-2 diabetes"[9], but concluded that further study was required to determine proper dosage." I guess we'll find out in the next couple of years of its really safe. after all like you said, japanese consume it!

mr BT (author)JoelDude2008-10-20

Hmmm. Good food for thought. Just in case you're interested, here's a link to the abstract (I couldn't find more) for the 1985 study.
And here's a link to a (full text) 1991 paper in re-examining the 1985 study suggesting stevioside is not as nasty as first reported.

mr BT (author)mr BT2008-10-20
ndm1973 (author)mr BT2008-10-18

From what it says here, the way data was handled, even distilled water would have appeared mutagenic.

Harryone (author)2008-10-16

You might try the local medium-box drug store for 70% ethyl alcohol. It has a trace of acetone (for the taste), but it's clean enough, and the acetone leaves soon enough. Getcher Splenda by the pound cheaply at WalMart or the moral equivalent (made in China, so you know it's... interesting.)

rfmonaco (author)Harryone2008-10-16

Why not just buy pure liquid sucralose from ?

jacobtriffo (author)rfmonaco2008-10-19

thats a trick, sucralose is solid at room temperature... you can order it, it is outrageously sweet, and definitely powdered

About This Instructable




More by Mongpoovian:Design and Build a 2,000,000,000x Scale Buckyball ModelKitchen ChemiluminescencePainting with Texture: Less-Than-Monochrome Wall Design
Add instructable to: