Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Agricultural wastes yield biosurfactants for biocosmetics

Large quantities of plant stalks, fruit and vegetable skins, husks and pods occur as waste in organic farming. In an EU-funded project researchers at the Fraunhofer IGB, in cooperation with international partners from science and industry, intend to use this waste to produce biosurfactants for natural cosmetics.

Surfactants are found in cleaning agents and detergents, also in cosmetics. Shampoos, shower gels and bath additives consist of up to 40 percent surfactants. They reduce the surface tension of water, so that oil can be mixed with water. Annually about 18 million tonnes of surfactants are manufactured, mainly by chemical means and on a petroleum base.

Agricultural wastes from certified producers will provide biosurfactants for cosmetic products.

A quarter is now manufactured from the oils of renewable resources, generally coconut or palm kernel oil. Microorganisms also produce washing-active substances that are called biosurfactants. However, only few of these biosurfactants are manufactured industrially, since their production is still comparatively expensive.

In order to make biosurfactants economically profitable for natural cosmetics, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB are developing a sustainable, cost-cutting production process in an EU-funded project. This project was launched on 1st January 2012 and is named “O4S – Sustainable surfactant production from renewable resources through natural fermentation for applications in natural, organically-certified products”.

For this purpose, the researchers intend to use wastes containing cellulose or oil and residual materials from organic farming as resources for a biotechnological process. Cellulose is a natural polymer consisting of sugar units which occurs in all plant components. If cellulose is converted into its basic building block glucose, the sugar molecules are available to the microorganisms as a substrate. “Various bacteria and fungi form biosurfactants from these sugars or also oils under natural conditions. The microorganisms can be cultivated in a bioreactor and the biosurfactants obtained industrially,” explains the biologist and engineer Susanne Zibek.

In the project first of all various naturally occurring strains of microorganisms are examined with regard to their potential applications. Important parameters for the fermentation process are: which strains can be cultivated in a stable manner in the bioreactor, which surfactants they produce and in what quantities. A further challenge for the researchers is the economical and, at the same time, ecological purification of the substances from the fermentation broth. “Here we will only use resource-conserving conversion and processing methods,” explains Dr. Ana Lucia Vasquez, who coordinates the project with all the partners. In comparison with conventionally produced detergents from petroleum resources, biosurfactants are environmentally more sustainable, biocompatible and biodegradable. Because of their more complex structure they can potentially have a greater range of effects. Some biosurfactants even have an antimicrobial effect which, as a component of cleaning agents, makes them interesting for skin care. Other surfactants are foaming agents and bind dirt, which is why they occur in shower gels and shampoos. The biosurfactants, which are produced observing strict ecological regulations, could also be used for applications in the food industry and pharmaceutical sector, also in restoration of the environment after oil disasters and the detoxification of wastewater.

“The use of waste products from organic farming both reduces the production costs and also ensures the sustainability of the biosurfactants,” says Vasquez. “We will accompany all the certification steps. In this way large quantities of waste from certified ecological farming can be used effectively.” In the EU ecologically certified products have to consist of at least 70 percent organically produced components, and foodstuffs even 95 percent. In order to guarantee this, the researchers of the Fraunhofer IGB work together with partners such as NATRUE: International Natural and Organic Cosmetics Association (BE), Naturland – Verband for ökologischen Landbau e.V. (DE) and Green Sugar (DE) as well as Intelligent Formulation (UK), Farfalla Essentials (CH), Grüne Erde (AT), Biotrend (PT), Cremer Oleo (DE), VITO (BE), Institut Dr. Schrader Creachem (DE), Asociacion Riojana Profesional de Agricultura Ecologica (ES) and Cevkor Vakfi (TR).

Dr. Ana Lucia Vásquez-Caicedo | Fraunhofer-Institut
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>