7/27/2010, Düsseldorf / Gemany


Fungi, yeasts and bacteria produce active ingredients for laundry and home care products

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White Biotechnology for Everyday Household Items

Fungi, yeasts and bacteria – for some they may sound like a list of the most feared of pathogens, but for others they constitute living mini-factories capable of producing substances such as enzymes, citric acid and, lately, biosurfactants. “White Biotechnology” is the scientific term for industrial-scale production of substances with micro-organisms in closed systems. Indeed, without this technology, laundry and home care products would be significantly different than what we see today – because it is being used to an ever increasing degree in the manufacture of their key ingredients.

White Biotechnology is the banner under which biology and technology join forces. Unlike in a chemicals factory, the conversion work here is done by micro-organisms such as fungi, yeasts and bacteria. As they are able to produce the required substances from renewable raw materials such as molasses, starch or plant-derived oils, this form of production is environmentally compatible. It serves to conserve fossil energy sources and, ultimately, helps protect the climate – for the biological process itself is also very energy-efficient and takes place at low temperatures. Henkel uses these “mini-factories” to create important ingredients for its laundry and home care products. Laundry detergent enzymes and citric acid have long been established. But now they are being joined by biosurfactants as well.

Biosurfactants are wash-active substances with a biological provenance. Surfactants provide the “adhesive” interface between the water and grease molecules, facilitating the process of dislodging soil particles from the wash or some other surface. Biosurfactants are manufactured through the action of yeasts or bacteria on renewable raw materials. Not only are they environmentally compatible, they are also ideal for cleaning glass, as Henkel’s researchers have found out. The residue behavior is better than that achieved with conventional surfactants. In Instanet, Bref and Sonasol, therefore, they are ensuring an even better smear-free shine.

These biologically active substances perform important tasks within micro-organisms and all living cells, by either enabling or accelerating chemical reactions between molecules. They are manufactured with the aid of bacteria and have been part of the White Biotechnology scene since the 1970s. Enzymes are used in laundry detergents as a means of removing stains such as blood, cocoa or lipstick. They make an important contribution to ensuring that laundry products such as Dixan, Le Chat and Wipp Express are able to deliver outstanding results even at low wash temperatures and with very little water.

Citric acid
Lemon juice contains between five and seven percent citric acid. And indeed, in the past pure citric acid was laboriously extracted from lemon and lime juice. Today, a special fungus does all the work to enable industrial-scale production. One of the properties of citric acid is that it is a very effective limescale solvent. Consequently, it is predestined for use in household cleaners – for example in Tenn, Bref or Sonasol.

For further information relating to White Biotechnology at Henkel, and related photo material, please go to our website at: www.henkel.com/innovation.

Henkel AG & Co. KGaA