Evonik announced that is has begun construction of the world’s first commercial rhamnolipid production facility in their biotech hub in Slovenská Ľupča, Slovakia. This new biosurfactant plant represents a triple-digit million-euro investment, with which Evonik aims to become a pioneer of high-quality, sustainable biosurfactants.
Rhamnolipids are a type of biosurfactants that are sustainably produced through a fermentation process. The process uses European corn sugar as the main raw material, which is also a constituent of cleaning and personal care products.
An upside to the production of rhamnolipids from biogenic carbon is that it requires no petrochemical feedstocks or tropical oils. In addition, rhamnolipids are fully biodegradable, and their low-impact life cycle means they are a sustainable alternative to conventional surfactants.
Rhamnolipids possess outstanding foam-forming properties that make them suitable for applications in household cleaners and personal care products like shampoos and micellar waters. Their pleasant taste also enables the formulation of oral care products, such as toothpaste, without strong taste masking components.
“Today is an important day for our partnership with Unilever, our employees in Slovakia, our Nutrition & Care division, and for our planet. We are delighted that the construction of our new biosurfactant plant is now underway,” says Yann d’Hervé, head of Evonik’s Care Solutions business line.
The Evonik Fermas original plant was founded in 1992 as a joint venture between Degussa AG and the Slovakian company Biotika a.s. At first, Evonik Fermas used biotechnology to produce amino acids for animal feed; however, it quickly became adept at manufacturing a range of fermentation-based products for applications in animal nutrition, pharmaceutical products and the cosmetic and personal care industry. Through the following decades, the site continued to add new products and investments, improved technologies and infrastructure. In 2016, Evonik Fermas ran the first pilot plant for the manufacture of sustainable biosurfactants via fermentation.