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Methods & Processes
Bio-based Esters for a Smaller Footprint
By: Katie Schaefer, Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine
Posted: February 27, 2009, from the March 2009 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
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The bio-based process of creating succinic acid is not only better for the environment but also, according to Dunuwila, cheaper than the petrochemical route. The succinic acid produced from this process can be converted into compounds for specialty chemicals, plastics and personal care products, among other uses.
Esters from Succinic Acid
Esters produced from succinic acid have many applications in personal care. They are used as stabilizers for active ingredients in self-tanning lotions, and they can be applied to nail care products. Dunuwila’s company currently holds a patent for a succinic acid-derived ester in a nail care product. “The ester of succinic acid, diethyl succinate, in combination with another ester is suitable for removing nail polish,” explained Dunuwila. Solvents such as acetone that are commonly used in nail polish removers can be volatile, reports Dunuwila, and inhaled by consumers using the product and manufacturers creating it. Diethyl succinate, however, is reportedly a nontoxic, nonvolatile solvent.
With the influence of REACH in Europe and a global initiative to formulate with natural and organic ingredients, the personal care industry has sought bio-based raw material options. These regulatory issues in part led Dunuwila’s team to seek a bio-based alternative to succinic acid. “Because of global warming, there is a regulatory push as well as a consumer demand to reduce carbon footprints. That’s why we went to a bio-based process,” said Dunuwila.
The bio-based process for succinic acid will certainly be praised in California, where the state’s Environmental Protection Agency has issued a Green Chemistry Initiative. In addition, it will provide formulators of personal care products with bio-renewable alternatives to esters currently in use.
The reach of succinic acid extends beyond personal care. For example, there is a large market in industrial solvents. “There is a huge demand for non-chlorinated solvents,” said Dunuwila, who notes that the esters also can be added to diesel fuel to reduce particulate emissions. And as the industry is well aware, there has been a surge of media reports on the harmful effects of phthalates in toys and personal care, an area where an ester of succinic acid could serve as an alternative.