‘Greener’ Surfactants from Bio-based Waste as Efficient Alternatives to Nonylphenol Ethoxylates

EPA Grant Number: SU835342
Title: ‘Greener’ Surfactants from Bio-based Waste as Efficient Alternatives to Nonylphenol Ethoxylates
Investigators: Nagarajan, Ramaswamy , Bavishi, Vishal , Chittigori, Joshna , MohdAris, Zarif Farhana
Current Investigators: Nagarajan, Ramaswamy , Bavishi, Vishal , Chittigori, Joshna , Magaletta, Michael , MohdAris, Zarif Farhana
Institution: University of Massachusetts - Lowell
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2012 through August 14, 2013
Project Amount: $14,994
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemicals , P3 Awards , Sustainability


The objectives of this research effort are to synthesize and characterize a novel class of surfactants based on polysaccharides as environmental friendly alternative to nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs). These surfactants will:

  • Use renewable, non-toxic and preferably bio-based waste as starting materials.
  • Be based on modifying naturally occurring polysaccharides.
  • Be synthesized using sustainable methods (in accordance to principles of ‘green chemistry’) such as enzyme catalysis and microwave assisted synthesis.
  • Be tested for efficacy as a drop-in replacement for NPEs in cleaning products.



The use of a renewable feedstock derived from bio-based waste fruit peels [such as polygalacturonic acid (PGA)] or algae (alginic acid) will be used as starting materials for the synthesis of bio-based surfactants. By the virtue of their large abundance and structural diversity, polysaccharides are ideal starting materials for well-defined modifications to create surfactants. PGA and alginic acid will be modified to impart amphiphilic properties by attachment of hydrophilic and hydrophobic groups that are bio-derived from natural sources. These modifications will be carried out in accordance to the principles of ‘green chemistry’ in aqueous/non-toxic solvents where possible. Enzyme catalysis and microwave assisted synthesis will also be explored for the functionalization of these polysaccharides.

Expected Results:

All bio-based surfactants synthesized over the course of the project will be tested for their ability to lower the surface tension at the air-water interface using a Du Nüoy ring tensiometer. The cleaning efficiency of the surfactants will be tested at the Toxics Use Reduction Institute’s Surface Solutions Lab (TURI SSL). The research team will also work with Alpha Chemical Services Inc. to evaluate the cleaning efficiency of the polysaccharide-based surfactants as a drop-in replacement in detergent applications.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 6 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Household detergents, green chemistry, enzyme-catalysis, microwave-assisted, bio-based renewable feedstock, waste to value, sustainable development, benign, toxic use reduction.

Relevant Websites:

Phase 2 Abstract

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report
  • P3 Phase II:

    ‘Greener’ Surfactants from Bio-Based Waste as Efficient Alternatives to Nonylphenols Ethoxylates