Project: Biobased Surfactants for Tomorrow’s Sustainable Society

Within the ChemistryNL TKI co-funded ‘Biobased Surfactants for Tomorrow’s Sustainable Society’ project, Biorizon co-initiator TNO and Henkel jointly develop novel biobased surfactants. This offers a renewable alternative with the potential of improved performance and biodegradability in detergents.

Replacing fossil-based surfactants has major sustainability impact

By 2025, the detergents industry in Europe is estimated to reach a value of USD 13 billion. Henkel AG & Co. KGaA, one of the key global players in this market, is strongly committed to sustainability as one of its core values and strives to continuously expand its leading role. As part of this, Henkel aims at sustainable sourcing and in carbon neutrality for its raw materials and formulations. Bio-based feedstocks play an important role in reaching this goal, especially in the field of surfactants being a major component of laundry and home care products used on a Mta scale in the detergent industry. So, sustainable bio-based surfactants will significantly contribute to sustainable products and will enable conscious consumption for the consumer. Therefore, one of the key focus points for Henkel’s Laundry & Home Care R&D is the development of novel renewable carbon based and biodegradable surfactant molecules with added value or better performance than conventionally used fossil-based surfactants.

Great potential for bio-based platform molecule furfural

Preliminary research by Biorizon co-initiator TNO revealed that the bio-based platform molecule furfural has great potential to serve as basis for desired renewable surfactants. Today, furfural is produced from residual hemicellulose streams at 400 kta and its market is expected to grow in view of its increasing application potential (US DoE Top-12, e.g. in solvents and coatings) and the increasing availability of residual hemicellulose from established and upcoming biorefineries, which are seeking increased valorisation potential for their undervalued hemicellulose residues.

To unleash the potential of furfural-based surfactants there is the need to develop new surfactant structures which deliver similar or even better application characteristics than the conventionally used surfactant types, combined with sustainability criteria covering biodegradability, bio-based content and sustainable sourcing. In this project Biorizon co-initiatior TNO and Henkel aim to identify, synthesize and assess these novel furfural based surfactant molecules.

More information

If you want to know more about this project, or the potential of bio-aromatics in your application, please contact Biorizon’s Sugar Horizon Manager Paul Könst at or +31 (0) 6 25 04 13 79.


This project is co-funded by the Top consortium for Knowledge and Innovation (TKI) / ChemistryNL programme of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency with the PPS allowance of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate.

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This project is made possible by a contribution from the European
Regional Development Fund (ERDF) within the framework of OP-Zuid.

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