Transformation of terpenes into fine chemicals



The chemical industry has flourished in the 20th century due to the massive supply of cheap crude oil. However, growing concerns about the dependence on imported oil and the awareness that the world's oil supplies are limited have prompted interest in exploring nature's richness of plant sources. Plants offer enormous potential as cost-effective, unlimited, environmentally friendly production systems that make efficient use of light energy and supply raw materials for the production of fuels, bulk, and fine chemicals. Terpenes are one of the largest and most diverse classes of organic compounds produced by all plants. They are derived biosynthetically from isoprene units, which consist of five carbon atoms. Due to their high abundance they have attracted attention as a class of natural products that can be converted into novel and valuable compounds commercially important for the industrial production of fragrances, perfumes, flavors, and pharmaceuticals as well as useful synthetic intermediates and chiral building blocks. The review focuses on the use of terpenes available from renewable resources in the fine chemicals industry. Chemical and biotechnological approaches are highlighted.