Synthetic SLES as an alternative to oleochemical-based raw materials

Published: 24-10-2017

Alkyl ether sulfates constitute an important group of anionic surfactants, primarily used in cosmetic and detergent applications. These compounds exhibit very good emulsifying and foaming properties, which translates into their high washing efficiency. This makes them one of the main ingredients of shampoos and various body washes. They effectively remove fat and impurities, by producing high and stable foam and lowering surface tension. Alkyl ether sulfates include, but are not limited to, sodium salts of sulphated ethoxylated lauryl alcohol – SLES (Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate).

What is the difference between Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Pareth Sulfate?

The fundamental difference lies in the origin of fatty alcohol, the raw material from which these anionic surfactants are formed. Sodium Laureth Sulfate is based on natural lauryl alcohol. The second – Sodium Pareth Sulfate – is made from synthetic alcohol.

Alkyl ether sulfates based on natural lauryl alcohol have been in the product portfolio of the PCC Group for many years. SULFOROKAnol L170/1, L270/1 and L370/1 can be mentioned here. The introduction of a surfactant based on synthetic alcohol is a result of recent work on the development of a product base for detergent manufacturers. This product is SULFOROKAnol L370 – INCI Sodium Pareth Sulfate.

It should be noted here that the synthetic alcohol-based product has nothing to do with properties such as SULFOROKAnol L270/1 (manufactured from natural raw material), which is already a well-known anionic surfactant widely used in detergents and cosmetics. SULFOROKAnol L370 can also be used in detergents production, personal hygiene agents, but also in many industrial applications.

SULFOROKAnol L370 – stable price of raw material

Natural alcohols, used for the production of a wide range of surfactants, belong to the group of oleochemicals originating, inter alia, from the processing of palm oil. Already since last year significant fluctuations in market prices of these raw materials have been observed. Hence, our idea was to support our business partners by introducing a product independent of market fluctuations on oleochemicals and thereby enabling them a stable production. For this reason SULFOROKAnol L370 is a good alternative, especially for detergent manufacturers. In addition, because the product is based on synthetic raw material, it is not subject to RSPO requirements.

Where else is SLES used?

The combination of good foaming and wetting properties with acid and alkaline resistance makes SLES not only used in the detergent and cosmetics industry. It also includes all types of cleaning formulations used in the I&I (Industrial & Institutional) industry, including hard surface cleaning formulations and agents from automotive chemistry. Good detergent properties make it possible to use this surfactant also in products for washing and degreasing leather in tannery.

SLES can also be one of the primary surfactants in firefighting foam concentrates. The creation of high and stable foam is desirable in this application and allows the preparation of extinguishing agents appropriate fire extinguishing efficiency.

As far as industrial applications are concerned, SLES is excellent as a component of aerated concrete admixtures. It increases the frost resistance of concrete, hence the widespread use of these surfactants in the construction industry. In turn, very good emulsifying properties of SLES are used in emulsion polymerisation for the production of polymer dispersions as well as in metalworking and hydraulic fluids. This group of surfactants may also be included in adjuvants used in agriculture because of their ability to effectively reduce surface tension and the contact angle.

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