Surfactants are chemicals with both hydrophilic (water loving) and hydrophobic (water hating) regions, which makes them extremely useful for mixing oils and water, stabilising foams and removing dirt from surfaces and laundry. As a result, surfactants are used across a broad array of industrial sectors and products, including laundry detergents and cleaning, personal care (shampoos, hand and body wash liquids), plant protection as wetting agents, in paints and coatings and as emulsifiers in pharmaceuticals. Most of the surfactants available today are substantially derived from fossil fuels. Biobased surfactants could be an alternative but those that are currently available have limited functionality and are typically 3 to 5 times more expensive that fossil-based surfactants. However, customers and consumers are demanding sustainable biobased ingredients and there is a real need now for highly functional, biobased surfactants for an array of applications.

This project will demonstrate the potential for a novel family of biobased surfactants, based on the furan headgroup derived from sugars from waste agricultural residues, to replace fossil-derived surfactants. Led by in silico data modelling, a number of furan surfactant variants will be selected for synthesis and testing. A commercially relevant process for manufacturing the lead furan surfactants will be demonstrated at lab scale. Availability of suitable feedstocks and building blocks to manufacture the furan surfactants in the UK will be mapped. Potential furan building block producers, feedstock converters and customers will be invited to engage with the project via a stakeholder board to align Furafact both with the UK chemicals manufacturing industry and customer demands.

For further information, please contact Dr Adrian Higson, NNFCC Managing Director