Published: August 1980
The present day technology and economics of manufacturing L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C, is evaluated and its position in the marketplace is reviewed.
Vitamin C, as one of the 13 isolated vitamins needed by humans, was the first dietary supplement recognized as effective for the cure and prevention of a human disease, namely scurvy, and is now one of the most used and most widely produced of the vitamins.
Public interest has been captured and kept alive for a considerable period of time by reports from the news media relating to many claims of the vitamin's effectiveness against colds and its beneficial effects in many other pathological conditions. Consumer demand accordingly has increased steadily with a healthy growth pattern predicted for the years ahead not only in pharmaceutical uses but also as a nutrient and anti- oxidant in food and agricultural products.
The technology is based on a complex multi-step organic chemical synthesis preceded by a bacterial fermentation operation to produce the requisite L-sorbose from sorbitol and a hydrogenation to make sorbitol from glucose which is the starting material. The process design and economics are based on the application of the early Reichstein synthetic procedure, with subsequent modifications and improvements to permit a combination of batch reaction with continuous processing to increase yields and reduce costs.
Detailed technical and economic analyses are presented, based on information collected from patents, technical papers, trade journals and private communications with producers, marketers, and equipment and material suppliers in this field.