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Sophorolipids from Mahua Oil

Aside from Tecnon OrbiChem’s coverage of oleochemicals on the monthly Bio-Materials newsletter, I have not covered much of the bio-based surfactants market in months. However, the blog recently received an interesting information on sophorolipids, a fermentation-based glycolipids that can be used to produce surfactants.

The blog last mentioned sophorolipids in a September 2012 post when Europe-based consumer products company, Ecover, a producer/consumer of sophorolipids, has acquired Method, a US-based cleaning products company. Back then, the only sophorolipids producer/developer that the blog mentioned included Ecover, France-based Soliance/WheatOleo, Japan-based Saraya, South Korea-based MG Intobio, and US-based Synthezyme.

A Japan-based company called Allied Carbon Solutions (ACS), it seems, has also been developing sophorolipids for years, and now it is marketing its bio-based surfactant products in Asia, with the intent to expand in North America and Europe. At first, ACS has been using jatropha for feedstock but has moved towards the use of a non-edible oilseed called Indian Mahua (INCI Name – Candida Bombicola/Madhuca Longifolia Seed Oil Ferment Extract).

ACS said it has been producing its own Mahua oil near its sophorolipids manufacturing facility in India. According to the company, Mahua tree can produce large quantity of seeds between 20-200 kg/year per tree. The sophorolipids, marketed under the brand, ACS-Sophor, is said to be the first bio-based surfactant product that uses Mahua oil.

ACS said it has been collaborating with Japan’s Research Institute for Innovation in Sustainable Chemistry of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), and University of Ryukyus, for the development of a cheaper sophorolipid production. The company said it has applied for the patent in the mass-production of sophorolipids and other surfactants such as surfactin using a cost-efficient process in the fermentation of Mahua oil.

According to ACS, its sophorolipids can replace polyoxyethylene alkyl ether, sodium dodecyl sulfate and also trimethylglycine. Sophorolipids is a biodegradable surfactant with high-surface tension activity, excellent detergency even at low concentration, and produce little foam making them applicable to cosmetics, personal care, hair care, skin care, cleaning, household and industrial care, detergent and other consumer care products applications.

Formulation of laundry detergents typically would require 10-30% surfactant, but according to ACS, a formulator would only need 1% use of ACS-Sophor.

The company said it has a production capacity of around 10-15 metric tons/month, but it can be increased 4-5x depending on market demand. A Japanese detergent company has already been using the sophorolipids in its product under the brand “Choice Detergent”, ACS said.  I might not understand Japanese but the guy in the video below is pretty convincing with its marketing :).

In another bio-surfactant news, DSM recently announced that it has entered an agreement with SyntheZyme to develop products based on SyntheZyme’s biosurfactant platform. As previously mentioned, SyntheZyme has also been developing sophorolipids as well as other monomer building blocks from engineered yeast and cell-free enzymes.

As part of the collaboration, DSM will provide R&D funding to SyntheZyme to support the company’s costs in developing efficient routes to modified biosurfactants and to evaluate their properties. Synthezyme will also be eligible to earn milestone payments, license fees, and royalties on product sales if the collaboration is successful.

About Doris de Guzman

Will Green Chemistry save the world or is it hype?

Doris de Guzman examines alternative processing, new technology, R&D and other sustainability initiatives aimed at preventing pollution; replacing ingredients; and using renewable feedstocks in Green Chemistry.

She has been covering the oleochemicals market for 15 years and spread her beat to inorganics, biofuels and green chemistry.

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