Improved formulation for STEPAN surfactants

One of the world’s largest producers of surfactants considers the time spent at ILL using neutrons, through SINE2020, invaluable for its R&D activities.

Date: 27/01/2017
Source: sine2020.eu

stepan

Personnel from Stepan in front of the SANS instrument at the Institut Laue-Langevin (France)

Stepan is one of the world’s largest producers of surfactants, with more than 1800 employees and 16 manufacturing locations worldwide. Stepan provides surfactants expertise for commercial and industrial applications – ranging from foaming agents for shampoo to emulsifiers for agricultural insecticides or agents for oil recovery.

In its quest for formulations tailored to customer requirements, the company needed to validate hypotheses developed on the microstructure of surfactants. Their questions could not all be answered using standard techniques.

SANS Data from STEPAN's experiments SANS Data from STEPAN's experiments SANS Data from STEPAN's experiments

Stepan’s chemists therefore decided to use small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) on an instrument at the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) in France. SANS can reveal the average size and distribution of particles. It also provides information on shape and chemical structure (from about 1 nm to 1 μm).

The benefits of using neutrons through SINE2020

Elodie Shaw, Technical Manager in Stepan Europe, states:

“The SANS measurements gave us indications on the self-assembly structure of our surfactants. We were able to distinguish between different structures, findings which challenged our knowledge to date. The time spent with the ILL scientist was invaluable.

Without the SINE2020 programme, we would probably not have approached the ILL for experiments, not being aware of the technique.”

A Pipid micelle A Pipid micelle The surfactant molecule has a hydrophilic head (in red) and a hydrophobic (lipophilic) tail (in blue). When surfactants are added to water, they selfassemble in spheres called “micelles”. © Guillaume Paumier / Wikimedia Commons, CC-by-3.0

© Guillaume Paumier / Wikimedia Commons, CC-by-3.0

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