Derek Saxon is a junior chemistry major from Iron Mountain, Michigan. He is conducting research this summer on biopolymers with Professor Dean Katahira of the Chemistry Department at Ripon College as part of his involvement with the McNair Scholars Program. He is one of four Ripon College students sharing their stories of research internships and jobs over the course of this summer.
This week the first experiment using an ionic liquid (IL) was conducted. After selecting several imidazolium-based ILs, they finally arrived. The solvent was a dialkyl-imidazolium chloride and the catalyst used was metaboric acid. Most of this experiment was completely self-designed; the only pre-determined information I had to use was the ratio of sugar to metaboric acid, which came from a reference describing glucose, not fructose. So that was only slightly helpful. Since we don’t really have a good understanding of ILs, this experiment had some surprises.
The IL selected for this study had a relatively high melting point, so it was very difficult to work with. We had to heat the bottle up and quickly measure out the amount needed. The fructose and metaboric acid were added and the solution was heated to a medium temperature with agitation. As the reaction progressed, the color of the solution changed from a light color to very dark.
After an hour, we allowed the reaction mixture to cool to room temperature. Then we centrifuged a small amount of the solution, which left a small pellet of solid material. The solid material was then left on the oven to evaporate any remaining liquid. We will be analyzing this material to determine what happened during the reaction and conducting more experiments, changing certain variables to affect the reaction.