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How To Isolate Splenda

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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.
 
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Step 1: Educate!

Sucralose 1.jpg
Sucralose 2.jpg
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 3: Agitate!

Picture of Agitate!
Pour some solvent over your splenda and stir it vigorously. Stir it! Pump that arm!
ALogan971 year ago
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)  ALogan971 year ago
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!
ALogan971 year ago
If we use isopropanol, could we burn it off to speed up the evaporation process, or would this negatively affect the resulting sucralose?
aakemp1232 years ago
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!
rhangatoby3 years ago
wait, if we shouldnt eat it if we used acetone, then why use acetone?
sijmad5 years ago
Is acetone is a "non polar" solvent? That is strange!!
Mongpoovian (author)  sijmad5 years ago
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.
you should not use benzene, as it causes cancer. toluene is does not (or at least there is no proof it does).
Mongpoovian (author)  Arano3 years ago
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...
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.
ArcticLiz3 years ago
Hey! uhm.. I gotta question.. you still remember how much acethone you used?? Thanks! :D
Mongpoovian (author)  ArcticLiz3 years ago
I think I used two 40-50 ml portions of solvent. It was a while ago, though...
oh.. I guess it will be useful.. thanks! :D
Mongpoovian (author)  ArcticLiz3 years ago
What sort of isolation do you need to do?
isolate the sucralose from Splenda (:
ArcticLiz3 years ago
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)  ArcticLiz3 years ago
Glad it could help!
REA4 years ago
what could the sucralose be used for once isolated?
Mongpoovian (author)  REA4 years ago
I'm still working on that one...
REA Mongpoovian4 years ago
perhaps its flamable? or explosive?or can react with stable molecules to make them radioactive?
Pie Ninja5 years ago
Instead of Everclear would it be possible to use pure ethanol?
Everclear is essentially just ethanol in itself, so pure ethanol would work.
sweeeeet. (quite literally, actually :P)
montdor15 years ago
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?
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.
Koolraap5 years ago
What is everclear composed of ? i live in Holland and I'm pretty sure they don't have that brand over here :}
Mongpoovian (author)  Koolraap5 years ago
Here in the US, at least, it's more commonly known as grain alcohol - look for 95% (or 190 proof) on the label.
marine123205 years ago
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)  marine123205 years ago
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.
dniloc2cv5 years ago
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.
whorger5 years ago
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_pal5 years ago
I like your rhyming steps, it makes science seem cool. Yes I do realize how geeky that sounded.
Mongpoovian (author)  lobo_pal5 years ago
I try my best. :)
Is it save to eat, or will the sweetness make your toungh explode or something?
Mongpoovian (author)  lobo_pal5 years ago
As long as you use a non-toxic solvent, it's perfectly safe to eat.
AZsid5 years ago
So, if you use Everclear and don't evaporate it off you would be left with a super sweetened mixer?
Mongpoovian (author)  AZsid5 years ago
I think you would indeed.
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...
wingbatwu5 years ago
What I'd like to know is how to isolate stevioside and rebaudioside from stevia leaves...
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