Microplastics are still used in personal care products, although the environmental impact is well known. Tiny plastic particles from peelings and other skincare products enter the sea and ultimately our food chain via waste-water systems. In a research project, the Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems IMWS and its partners have tested materials that can replace microplastics in cosmetic products and are biodegradable.
Many cosmetic products such as body peelings or deodorants contain tiny plastic particles, so-called microplastics, for example made of polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP). As "gentle abrasives", they remove dead skin flakes by means of friction and stimulate the blood circulation of the skin.
Photographic images of tooth enamel samples in their initial state, after discoloration and after cleaning. The samples were cleaned with a toothpaste containing cellulose.
Due to their chemical resistance and their lack of color, smell and taste, they are also frequently used as stabilizers and fillers. Polyethylene and polypropylene are non-biodegradable and due to the small particle size of less than 5 millimeters, the microplastic that has been introduced into waste water with cosmetics cannot be sufficiently removed in sewage treatment plants.
It therefore reaches the environment and enters our waters. In the sea, microplastic particles are absorbed by living organisms and eventually enter our food chain. Many cosmetics manufacturers have therefore announced that they will abandon the use of microplastics and instead use suitable alternatives in the future.
With the recently completed research project "KosLigCel" within the framework of the leading-edge cluster BioEconomy, the Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems IMWS is making a contribution to this. In the project, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, alternatives made of biodegradable materials were successfully developed and tested together with CFF GmbH, a cellulose processor from Gehren in Thuringia, and Skinomics GmbH from Halle (Saale), which is mainly responsible for galenic and dermatological examinations of products.
The goal was a cost-effective production of biodegradable cellulose particles from beech wood, oats, wheat and maize that meet the requirements for abrasiveness and cleaning performance in dental and skincare products. Specifically, alternatives for body peelings and toothpastes were tested. The particular challenge was to design the cellulose particles in such a way that their size, shape, hardness and surface structure lead to the desired product properties. Cellulose made of beech wood was specially modified and the optimization process was accompanied by microstructure analysis at Fraunhofer IMWS.
"After two years of research work with the project partners, we have achieved very good results: a test toothpaste with the optimized beech wood cellulose particles is characterized by a low abrasion effect, but nevertheless good cleaning performance," says Dr. Sandra Sarembe, project coordinator at Fraunhofer IMWS. The biodegradable particles in toothpaste are used for the mechanical removal of bacterial plaque, tooth discoloration and food residues, but they may not damage tooth enamel.
"In the material characterization of several cellulose types, we have consistently collected positive data. This also applies to the use of these substances in wash peelings and other skin cosmetics," Sarembe continues. The research team was able to scientifically confirm that cellulose particles have comparable effects in cosmetic products as a substitute for polyethylene. They are also biodegradable in water and can be produced at low cost. Cellulose particles can also be used as a filler in aluminum-free deodorants.
"The use of cellulose as biobased fillers could also be possible in other fields of application such as medical products. In addition, different cellulose types can be mixed, which promises a wide range of applications. Therefore, the particles have a high potential for new product developments and attractive marketing opportunities for sustainable or even vegan products," says Dr. Andreas Kiesow, project manager at Fraunhofer IMWS.
The results obtained can also be used in the future for development in other cosmetic areas such as decorative cosmetics for mascara, powder or lipstick.
Michael Kraft | Fraunhofer-Institut für Mikrostruktur von Werkstoffen und Systemen IMWS
Materials scientist creates fabric alternative to batteries for wearable devices
12.11.2018 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst
A new path through the looking-glass
12.11.2018 | Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly
The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
13.11.2018 | Life Sciences
13.11.2018 | Life Sciences
13.11.2018 | Awards Funding