Company initiatives, Investments, R&D

Evonik offers sophorolipid biosurfactants

It has come to my attention that I’ve been remiss of not mentioning Evonik’s announcement early this year on the commercialization of its sophorolipids surfactants as part of my Bio-based surfactants roundup post yesterday.

Unlike rhamnolipids, sophorolipid surfactants have already been commercialized and are being used by companies such as Ecover and Henkel in limited cleaning products. The glycolipid are also used in certain cleaning products in Japan and Korea. I have previously reported about sophorolipids in February 2014. Sophorolipids, which are produced by a pure biotechnological fermentation process, are also surface-active agents that exhibit a low toxicological profile and provide unique properties in cleaning applications.

According to Evonik, sophorolipids are gaining attention in the household care market but large-scale production is crucical to successful commercialization of bio-surfactants in the household cleaning market.  The company pointed out that it has already been producing biotechnology-based products (e.g. amino acid feeds), with a turnover of more than $376 million worldwide. Sophorolipids will be added to this portfolio.

Sophorolipids are, in principal, mixtures of a lactone and the corresponding acidic form. Their relative ratio determines the main properties and performance of a sophorolipid composition. Evonik’s Rewoferm SL 446 sophorolipid is tailored in its acid-to-lactone ratio, reportedly resulting in significantly superior performance compared to other materials on the market. Advantages include foaming, degreasing and water hardness tolerance over established surfactants, and the sophorolipids are said to be ideal for applications such as hand dishwash and hard surface cleaning.

Evonik Sophorlipid Comparison Chart

The company has been developing the bio-surfactant at its Science To Business (S2B) Bio Center in Germany, which is Evonik’s hub for its biotech efforts. In an interview with Evonik, the company said it already has the scale for commercialization starting in Europe (after it gets REACH approval). It will start in small quantities this summer in Europe and then will start with US in less than a year (as the company goes through the US registration process).

The company did not disclose where it is producing the bio-surfactant although there were some industry whispers that it will be at Evonik Fermas s.r.o.’s facility in Slovenska, Lupca, Slovakia. Evonik Fermas is a 100% affiliate of Evonik AG.

From my last report on sophorolipids, producers/developers involved in this market (aside from Evonik, Ecover and Henkel) include France-based cosmetic ingredients producer, Soliance, which has been acquired by Givaudan last year; Japan-based Saraya; South Korea-based MG Intobio; Japan-based Allied Carbon Solutions; and US-based Synthezyme, which has a partnership with DSM in the development of Synthezyme’s bio-surfactant platform. It was also reported that Kaneka has been developing (using?) sophorose lipids for cosmetics and toiletry products.

Don’t forget next week, I will be tweeting from the World Surfactants Conference using via @DGreenblogger using #Surfactants.

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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