Making Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) from Glycerol




Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is used as an ingredient in sunless tanning products and in the food preparation industry. DHA’s skin coloring effect has also been examined to determine if it may benefit vitiligo patients (an uneven pigmentation of the skin); several DHA-containing products for this condition are now on the market. In recent years, the cosmetics industry has become interested in using DHA in its formulations for customers seeking enhanced skin tones. This technology is suitable for direct application to consumer products such as “glow” cosmetics. DHA, combined with a stabilized form of pyruvic acid (DHAP), is available as an athletic nutritional supplement. Sold as an orally-administered fat burner, it is reported also to increase lean muscle mass.


Description of Technology


MSU’s invention is a novel process that significantly improves DHA production from glycerol in a manner superior to current methods. Specifically, this technology utilizes a chemical synthetic route to produce DHA with high selectivity and increased volume, avoiding the currently used, more expensive microbial process. Performed at ambient temperatures, MSU’s process utilizes inexpensive catalysts that are effective in producing both higher yields and greater purity.


Key Benefits

  • Fast production cycle: Production speed has been increased without sacrificing cost or product purity.
  • Enhanced yield: Catalysts tested by MSU have produced improved yields over current methods.
  • Flexibility: Although the current process is acetaldehyde-based, any acetal or aldehyde (even hydrogen peroxide) can be used as the reagent.
  • Reduced toxicity: MSU has recently substituted less toxic, and even non-toxic, catalysts and oxidants for previously used chromium oxide (a toxic material).




Producing high purity DHA yields through an accelerated, lower-cost process can be utilized by those industries that produce glycerol as a byproduct or by manufacturers of products that incorporate DHA in their formulations. These products include cosmetics, sunless tanning products, plasticizers, fungicides, topical medicines, and nutraceuticals.


Patent Status


Patent pending




Dennis Miller, Xi Hong, Carl Lira, Omar McGiveron


Tech ID




Patent Information:


For Information, Contact:

Thomas Herlache
Assistant Director
Michigan State University