How to Isolate Splenda

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Introduction: 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!

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!

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!

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

Step 4: 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!

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.

Enjoy!

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    129 Comments

    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?

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

    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.

    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!

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

    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!

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

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

    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.

    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.