Researchers developing biodegradable detergent

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Spanish researchers say they are developing an ecological,
effective, non-toxic and low-cost detergent for industrial use.

A research team of the University of Granada is working on the design of biodegradable detergentsby comparing the performance of tensioactives, the compounds that perform the cleansing action incommercial detergents.

They concluded that fatty alcohols such as ethoxilated and alkylpolyglucosids show excellent toxicological and biodegradationbehaviour, which turns them into the best ecological alternative to other commonly usedtensioactives.

Increasing pollution laws in the EU means food processors are having to carefully chose the kindsof chemicals they use in their plants. Tensioactives world production -- which includes its use insoaps -- amounted to two million tonnes in 2001. Forecasts put future growth from three to four percent a year, an increase closely connected with the world demand of detergents.

In parallel with this increase, concern is growing about ecological, non-toxic, cheapalternatives that can be just as effective.

Manuela Lechuga Villena, a researchers at the university's department of chemical engineering,focused his first study on the analysis of four types of tensioactives which are usually present in the formulations of commercialdetergents.

They include lineal alkylbenzene sulphonate, which can be mainly found in manual dish soap and textile detergents and which is synthetised from non-renewable oil rawmaterials. The second is onylphenols polyethoxilates, commonly used in industrial detergents for hardsurfaces. The third was fatty ethoxilated alcohols, which are more ecologically friendly than nonylphenols polyethoxilates.

He also studied alkylpolyglucosids, made from oils and sugars, completely renewable raw materials which also have excellent cleansing properties and can be analternative to alkylbenzene.

He analysed the four wash compounds by reproducing rivers' and seas' conditions in the laboratory to determine the toxicity of these products onbacteria.

Previous work carried out by other researchers at the university confirmed that the combination of these tensioactives leads to commercial products with an outstanding cleansingcapacity, he claimed.

The first results are "an indispensable step to formulate a detergent which is able to work with less aggressive means and with a high wash effectiveness",Villena stated.

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