Bio Surfactants

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Surfactants are a major class of performance additives with a worldwide yearly production exceeding 10 million tones . They have a major impact on the environment because of their very short life cycle and the difficulty to recycle them. Non-ionic surfactants, mainly ethylene oxide or propylene oxide derivatives, represent alone half the production of surfactants and are mostly petro-based. Replacing such compounds with bio-sourced material would represent a decrease in Green House Gases emissions of hundred of thousands or even million of tones of COequivalents. Glycerol is an attractive renewable raw material with a low cost because it is a by-product of biofuels. Unfortunately, the current production methods of glycerol ether surfactants are too costly to capture any major markets. Developing new Eco-Efficient processes for these products require some major technological breakthroughs. One option could reside in heterogeneous catalytic processes allowing the selective trans-etherification of glycerol with fatty alcohols that would certainly one of the most eco-efficient routes. This reaction presents major scientific challenges and successful solutions will imply a smart design and careful study of the catalysts and their mechanism. Of course, a study of the scalability of the process is also paramount to ensure that it could deliver the benefits expected.


Our objective is to imagine new breakthrough catalytic systems capable of promoting the reaction of glycerol efficiently without the use of solvent and with the ability of recycling the catalysts. One of our approach is to design Pickering Interfacial Catalysts which allowing to provide high activity and selectivity between immiscible reagents without the use of solvents. This promising concept requires a deep understanding of the physical chemistry of the reaction medium and a careful design of the heterogeneous catalysts. We have applied this approach to other bi-phasic systems in our lab.

Own Publications

  1. “Glycerol/dodecanol double Pickering emulsions stabilized by polystyrene-grafted silica nanoparticles for interfacial catalysis”, H. Shi, Z. Fan, V. Ponsinet, R. Sellier, H. Liu, M. Pera-Titus, J-M. Clacens, ChemCatChem (2015), in press.

  2. “Homogeneously-acid catalyzed oligomerization of glycerol”, N. Sayoud, K. De Oliveira Vigier, T. Cucu, B. De Meulenaer, Z. Fan, J. Lai, J-M. Clacens, A. Liebens, F. Jerome, Green Chemistry (2015), 17, 882-892.

  3. "Directed Self-Assembly of Block Copolymers on Sparsely Nanopatterned Substrates", P. Chen, H. Liang, R. Xia, J. Qian, X. Feng; Macromolecules 46 (2013),  922-926.

         P. Chen et al., Macromolecules, 2013, 46, pp. 922-926

  4. "Acid-catalyzed etherification of glycerol with short chain alkyl alcohols: contribution of homogeneous Brønsted and Lewis acid catalysts", F. Liu, K. De Oliveira Vigier, M. Pera-Titus, Y. Pouilloux, J-M.Clacens, F. Decampo, F. Jérôme; Green Chem. 15 (2013), 901-909.

         preview 9 FLiu GreenChem 2013 15 p901-909

  5. "Cyclic glyceryl sulfate: a simple and versatile bio-based synthon for the facile and convergent synthesis of novel surface-active agents", Z. Fan, M. Corbet, Y. Zhao, F. Decampo, J-M. Clacens, M. Pera-Titus, P. Métivier, L. Wang; Tetrahedron Letters, 54 (2013), 3595-3598. 

         preview 8 MCorbet tetrahedronLett 2013 54 pp3595-3598

  6. Effect of selective nanoparticles on phase separation of copolymer-nanoparticle composites confined between two neutral surfaces”, X. Wu, P. Chen, X. Feng, R. Xia, J. Qian; Soft Matter. (2013), 9(25), 5909-5915. 

     X. Wu et al., Soft. Mater., 2013, 9, pp. 5909-5915


Surfactants market report, by SRI consulting, 2007