14 März 2016

Making Green from Rhamnolipid-based Biosurfactants

The challenge was to make rhamnolipids in a scalable, cost-competitive fashion

People often ask me how Logos Technologies got into making biosurfactants for use in soaps, shampoos, cosmetics, industrial cleaners, and other products.

After all, we’re better known as a defense and engineering company.

The short answer is, a decade ago, we assembled a team to work on bio-based technologies, initially biofuels. Then, over the years, while looking for products to commercialize, we hit upon rhamnolipids.

It’s been long recognized thatthis class of glycolipids is useful for variety of applications. But the conventional wisdom has been that rhamnolipids are too pricey to produce.

And, in fact, when we looked around, we could only find milligram quantities at laboratory chemical prices. Expensive!

So the challenge was to make rhamnolipids in a scalable, cost-competitive fashion.  And we’ve accomplished that with NatSurFact, our line of rhamnolipid-based biosurfactants.

How is NatSurFact Made?

At full commercial scale, NatSurFact will be made in fermentation tanks similar in size to those used for making beer at macrobreweries. What we do is take vegetable oil or a non-food analogue and ferment it to produce rhamnolipids.

Our exact fermentation, concentration and isolation techniques are proprietary. But, basically, we’ve increased the titer, productivity, and yield of the fermentation process, and we developed an innovative, cost-effective, and scalable way to isolate the rhamnolipids.

Using those processes, we offer four grades of material, from 5% to neat solid in different physical forms.

Green and Saving Green

NatSurFact is higher foaming than the surfactants it has been tested against, so there’s an economic reason to choose our biosurfactant. Another reason is that it’s environmentally friendly.

First, consider the feedstock: the triacylglycerid oil (similar to veggie oil you buy in a grocery store) we use is renewable.

Second, the production involves a natural fermentation process, which has a low environmental impact. And as for use, NatSurFact is a powerful cleansing and foaming agent, yet also mild.

Finally, with regards to disposal, NatSurFact has low eco-toxicity and is readily biodegradable. It even helps break down pollutants in a waste treatment facility.

Market Demand

Being green is very attractive in today’s market.

For example, in a 2015 Eco Pulse study, respondents put the environment and corporate social responsibility at top reasons for loving a brand. A full third had made a purchase based on a brand’s environmental record.

Likewise, a 2012 worldwide Nielson survey found two-thirds of consumers prefer to buy from companies that give back to society, and two-thirds of socially conscious consumers indicated the environment as a cause companies should support.

Going Large

For now, we expect to fill large scale orders at contract manufacturers—we have a good relationship with appropriate facilities.

But in the future, we plan to construct or retrofit purpose-built facilities, especially for partners that are looking to differentiate their products with NatSurFact.

Source: Biotechnology Innovation Organization, press release, 2016-03-01.

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