Biodegradable Specialty Chemicals: Innovation for Sustainability and Eco-Friendliness

Digital solutions can help companies develop eco-friendly, high performance specialty chemicals.
Digital solutions can help companies develop eco-friendly, high performance specialty chemicals.
Flickr CC user: Umberto Salvagnin

Surfactants play a huge role in the commercial and industrial arenas. Since they have the ability to reduce liquid surface tension, we typically associate them with soaps and detergents. However, surfactants are also important within the cosmetic, personal care products, agrochemical and paint industries. They’re even used in oil drilling and textile processing!1 Talk about ubiquitous.

Unfortunately, these compounds have one drawback: the very best surfactants are chemically stable. This may sound like a positive; it’s part of why they’re so effective, after all. The problem with being chemically stable, however, is that it also means they’re non-biodegradable. As a result, surfactants can remain in the environment for years. This is certainly not a good quality to have when some surfactants are toxic to both humans and the environment.

So what can specialty chemicals companies do to address this? With the push for better chemical safety and green products, the development of biodegradable surfactants is an area ripe with opportunity. A German-based specialty chemicals company even opened up a new innovation center in Virginia with this goal as one of its main aims. They intend to develop products that are environmentally sustainable and safe while also perform well at a reasonable cost.2

New Biodegradable Specialty Chemicals Can Help the Environment in More than One Way

One application of surfactants is to clean up oil spills. As so-called herding agents, they help contract oil slicks or push separate slicks together, in order to make it easier to collect or burn. Understandably, they’re crucial for cleaning up environmental disasters. But if the herding agents remain in the seawater they’re helping clean up, it ends up being less helpful for marine ecosystems.

Thankfully, scientists have recently developed an alternative that can address this problem. A research team created a compound derived from a sugar-based molecule that is benign and eco-friendly.3 Even better, it’s renewable and biodegradable—something that should please the most ardent proponent of green, sustainable practices. The best news of all, however, is that it’s also very effective. Tests showed that only a small amount of the compound was needed to clean up an oil spill. Only 5% of the volume of oil needed to be recovered, in fact.

Digital Tools Can Help Specialty Chemicals Companies Find Sustainable Solutions

When it comes to research and development, specialty chemicals firms face a variety of issues. They need to manage their inventory well. They need to have the capability to search through their protocols and experimental data effectively. They need to streamline their development cycles to avoid wasting resources on dead-end ideas while supporting the most promising ones. Ultimately, these all contribute to accelerating new chemical development.

Adopting digital solutions can make achieving these goals easier. By transitioning from paper-based systems to digital tools, R&D labs can enjoy the following advantages:

  • Access past research and data with minimal fuss and effort.
  • Easily share information among collaborators.
  • Optimize experiment cycles through a centralized database.
  • Virtually screen materials to assess their performance and behavior, allowing researchers to eliminate dead-end candidates early in the R&D process.
  • Identify and source required chemicals to ensure that they are on-hand and available in the amounts needed.

While biodegradable and eco-friendly products are certainly an area specialty chemicals companies should look into for opportunity, it’s important that innovation doesn’t come at the cost of precious resources. Digital solutions are an effective way for firms to develop new and exciting specialty chemicals while also remaining efficient in terms of time, effort and money.

Does your specialty chemicals firm want to enter the green market by developing biodegradable and eco-friendly products? Are you interested in learning how digital solutions can streamline the R&D process? Please contact us today to learn more about the benefits of BIOVIA Chemicals Research and Development Solution.

  1. “The Hunt for Greener Surfactants,” August 10, 2015, http://www.rdmag.com/articles/2015/08/hunt-greener-surfactants
  2. “Evonik Industries opens new business and innovation center in Chesterfield,” July 21, 2015, http://www.richmond.com/business/local/article_793d78f0-b76a-5390-85eb-d130c4bfecee.html
  3. “Sugar-Based Surfactant Developed for Oil Spills,” June 28, 2015, http://maritime-executive.com/article/sugar-based-surfactant-developed-for-oil-spills

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