How can we together make 100% bio-based and zero-hazard surfactants accessible worldwide?


Surfactants are used worldwide in daily life, in applications including agriculture, cleaning, personal care, fuels, mining and oilfield chemicals, and water treatment. Nouryon serves the €15 billion specialty surfactants market, and we aim to continue to meet the market’s evolving demands in a sustainable manner. Our customers and consumers continue to put a higher demand on renewable sourcing and non-hazardous products. While many of our surfactants are biodegradable and about 50% of our raw materials are bio-based, we need to push this towards 100% bio-based and sustainably sourced to truly minimize our environmental impact. Furthermore, for some of our applications reducing toxicity remains an urgent challenge.

Issues to consider

While there are bio-based and safe surfactants available on the market, they do not meet most applications’ requirements due to either performance or price. The challenge lies not in a single factor but rather in bringing together sustainably bio-based, low toxicity, desired functionality, and low cost to make solutions accessible for all mainstream markets. We want to offer sustainability to consumers worldwide and that requires a new approach we would like to develop with you.

Costs are a critical factor; the path towards an affordable product should be reasonable in terms of development costs and time. Also, there is no single solution - specialty applications require tunable properties. We are therefore especially interested in versatile, platform-like solutions, rather than a single type of surfactant. We believe that this can be achieved through combinations of different chemical building blocks.

What are we looking for?

We are interested in novel surfactants from renewable resources, but also building blocks for our surfactants (hydrophobes and/or hydrophiles). It is important that the compounds show desired performance on properties like foam, cleaning, substantivity, adhesion, emulsification, and surface activity. We are open to all classes of surfactants and are particularly interested in making cationic surfactants fully renewable; an algae species that produces such a product in a one-pot reaction would be a dream come true. You can be active in a niche market and together we can scale up to mainstream.

Also, if you have a renewable chemical building block for surfactants which is ready for scale-up, we are eager to get in touch.

Our strength is with commercializing surfactants, so we are not looking for a nanotechnology approach. Any materials sourced in competition with the food value chain are out of consideration.


  • Be a viable surfactant with functionality and/or have proven advantages as a building block for surfactants
  • Desired performance attributes in at least one application field
  • Inherent low toxicity or fast biodegradability to non-hazardous components
  • The material should be scalable to kg-scale in the first instance, so we know we can scale up further; it is essential that there is reasonable confidence that it is scalable
  • Long-term affordability and fit to current Nouryon, its customers, and partners
  • Quality and skill set of the team

If you think you have the solution we need, join our Challenge here.


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