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Speaker Interview - Silvia Jentsch

Manager Technical Services at Evonik Operations GmbH

Question 1 - Beyond their sustainability profile, how do biosurfactants like sophorolipids and rhamnolipids compare to traditional surfactants in terms of foaming, cleaning, and solubilizing properties, and what advantages do they offer for home care applications such as hard surface cleaning and laundry care?

Silvia: We have found that REWOFERM® Sophorolipids work best in cleaning formulations as a secondary surfactant that can be used as a "booster" to improve detergency of the formulations. Because the sophorolipid is a mixture of the acid and lactone forms, it combines several properties. This affects, for example, the foaming behaviour and also the soil dissolving properties.

REWOFERM® Rhamnolipids are very interesting because, in addition to being biodegradable and having low eco-toxicity, they are high performance surfactants.  Customers developing new cleaning formulations around rhamnolipids have been very satisfied with the results.  In laundry for example, Evonik used rhamnolipids to create an eco-friendly detergent that uses just a few ingredients and delivers excellent washing results compared to market benchmarks.

Our biosurfactants are not sensitive to water hardness. They can therefore be used anywhere, regardless of the water quality.

Question 2 - Could you provide insights into Evonik's efforts to expand the application of biosurfactants beyond laundry detergents and hard surface cleaning for various home care purposes? Specifically, could you share any insights or findings from this exploration, particularly regarding the identification of new applications or the addressing of evolving market needs?

Given the large size of the laundry and hard surface markets and their use of surfactants, we saw the potential to rapidly scale the eco-benefits of rhamnolipids and Evonik will continue to invest development resources in this area.   We are also working closely with customers to develop biosurfactant-based formulations in other market applications where mildness of rhamnolipids on skin is beneficial. 

We see great potential for our biosurfactants, particularly in car wash formulations. Here, for example, material compatibility is very important. Our REWOFERM®  biosurfactants show excellent compatibility with a wide range of materials. This means that the products can be used in a variety of application, both on the exterior and interior of the car.

Question 3 - Could you elaborate on the biotechnological production process used by Evonik to manufacture biosurfactants, and how this process contributes to their cost-effectiveness, large-scale availability, and reduced environmental impact compared to traditional surfactants?

Silvia: REWOFERM® Rhamnolipids are produced by a fermentation process using European corn sugar as the main raw material. This biogenic, carbon-based process does not require petrochemical feedstocks or tropical oils. Rhamnolipids are recognized for their contribution to circularity and reduced carbon footprint compared to conventional surfactants.

Question 4 - Could you elaborate on the potential impact of Evonik's newly completed industrial-scale facility for sustainable biosurfactants in Slovakia, both in terms of accelerating the availability of sustainable cleaning and personal care products and advancing the broader sustainable chemicals revolution? 

Silvia: With the completion of our plant in Slovakia, Evonik is the first company to produce rhamnolipids on an industrial scale. The plant enables Evonik to meet the high demand for rhamnolipids which are mild to the skin, bio-based, and fully biodegradable surfactants.

Silvia will be speaking at Cleaning Products Europe in Prague on the 10th April at 9.20am

Expanding application spectrum of biosurfactants in cleaning
  • Consumers increasingly concerned about the sustainability and safety of cleaning products
  • Biosurfactants provide the highest sustainability standards
  • Expanding the cleaning application portfolio of biosurfactants