Challenge area: Zero-footprint surfactant platforms

In VTT’s approach, the hydrophilic part of the new surfactant family is built from hemicelluloses which will be connected with a hydrophobic part. Hemicelluloses are fully bio-based, adjustable in molecular weight, and charge or other functionality can be attached through the hydroxyl group functionalities. Recent work showed that hemicelluloses isolated from wood are already surface-active and simple etherification of these hemicelluloses to a low degree of modification can be used to enhance the surface-activity. This can be developed into a surfactant platform free of ethylene oxide-based structures.  

Extraction and fractionation is an area in which VTT has strong experience and pilot facilities. The assembly of surfactant structures will be selected from several alternatives. In the first phase of the development, the hydrophobicity could be introduced to the hydrophilic part using epoxy technologies. In the next phase, several epoxy-free and biobased possibilities will be screened to obtain surfactant structures. The approach offers possibilities to tune the properties of the surfactants by several means, including size of hydrophilic part by adjusting the molecular weight and by fractionation. The carbon footprint and costs for the production will be followed from the early stage to evaluate the solutions.