Ionic liquids have many promising, but as yet unexplored, possibilities
Ionic liquids have many promising, but as yet unexplored, possibilities


This process is currently surrounded by a range of challenges that limit and hinder the opportunities for the development of medicines. In a new project supported by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, Anja-Verena Mudring and a research team are exploring whether ionic liquids could replace organic solvents, thus creating completely new opportunities for the production of medicines. 

“I feel extremely honoured and grateful. The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation gives us the opportunity and support to carry out this challenging project. It gives us a chance to develop a gamechanger in the production of new medicines and could help to achieve Agenda 2030 and the UN’s global goals,” says Anja-Verena Mudring, professor of Physical Materials Chemistry at Stockholm University. 

Ionic liquids are salts that are liquid at room temperature and consist of large organic building blocks in the form of cations and anions. For the crystallization of different forms of active ingredients ionic liquids have many promising, but as yet unexplored, possibilities. By equipping the ionic liquids’ cations and anions with different functionalities, it becomes possible to create specific interactions between the ionic liquids and the active ingredients. By creating tailor-made structures in the ionic liquids, the crystallisation of the active ingredient can be controlled in a way that is not possible with water or organic solvents. 

1 trillion combinations

Thanks to the unique properties of ionic liquids, they have recently also been called “green” solvents, which could eventually replace organic solvents in the production of medicines. 

A chemist can create 1 trillion possible combinations of the ionic liquids, each with a unique possibility of crystallising the active ingredient. There is great potential in this area that has not yet been explored. The aim of the project, which is led by professor Anja-Verena Mudring of the Department of Materials and Environmental Chemistry and runs over five years, is to investigate exactly this and contribute to the development of new medicines. The project is funded by a grant of SEK 33 million from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

“Our President has recently signed the UN’s agreement on global sustainability goals for higher education, as the first Swedish university to do so. I am proud of that. This project is one of the many major research activities at Stockholm University that are aimed at fulfilling the global goals. We are contributing to goal number 3, Good health and well-being. but also to goal 13, since the methods that will be developed will have a very small carbon footprint. With the students who are trained in this programme, we will also contribute to goal 4, on quality education for all. Educating the next generation of researchers and equipping them with the skills to succeed in handling the challenges of the future is of the greatest importance. The purpose of the project is to show how a challenge, a crisis even, can promote technical development for a truly sustainable future,” says Anja-Verena Mudring.

The research group also includes Mattias Edén, Alexander Lyubartsev and Xiadong Zou of the Department of Materials and Environmental Chemistry and Belén Martín Matute of the Department of Organic Chemistry.

About the grant
The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation awards grants each year to research projects that are judged to have the potential to lead to a future scientific breakthrough. In 2019, the foundation has granted SEK 640 million to 20 research projects. Four of these grants, worth a total of around SEK 132 million, have gone to Stockholm University.