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.