What are sugar surfactants?
To understand sugar surfactants, first should be clarified what surfactants are. Surfactants are surface-active substances that reduce the surface tension of the water. This gives them washing-active properties. The dirt particles are often associated with grease or oil. But water and oil are not miscible with each other. However, surfactants can mediate blending of both components because they have both hydrophilic (water-loving) and hydrophobic (water-repellent) portions, which are also lipophilic (fat-soluble). While the hydrophilic portion of the surfactant protrudes into the water and is surrounded by water molecules, its hydrophobic lipophilic portion always contacts the oil or fat molecules. Smallest oil droplets including the water-insoluble dirt particles are thus enclosed in the form of a small cell (micelle) by the surfactant molecules. The result is an emulsion with the dirty oil droplets in an aqueous phase. The dirt is loosened and removed.
Surfactants consist of long hydrophobic carbon-water chains with a hydrophilic functional group or with bonding to another hydrophilic molecule. The hydrophilic part of the molecule has polar properties and therefore enters into connections with the dipolar water molecule. In contrast, the non-polar part of the molecule likes to associate with non-polar substances such as fats and oils. There are anionic, cationic, amphoteric and nonionic surfactants. Depending on the nature of their raw materials, surfactants are also classified as synthetic or bio-based surfactants.
Sugar surfactants are nonionic surfactants. They are composed of the hydrocarbon chains of fatty acids and one or more sugar residues. Both components are glycosidically linked. The sugar residue is the hydrophilic part and the fatty acid residue is the hydrophobic part of the molecule. Both components of the sugar surfactant are derived from renewable raw materials, which are chemically bound together using certain catalysts. That’s why they are also biodegradable surfactants. However, since the sugar residue has no charge, it is a nonionic molecule. However, due to its hydrophilic and hydrophobic regions, a sugar surfactant is a detergent-active substance which can significantly lower the surface tension of the water.
Sugar surfactants are always bio-based surfactants. The sugar residue is first obtained as sucrose from the sugar beet or cane. The fatty acids or fatty alcohols are derived mainly from palm kernel oil or, more rarely, from coconut oil. Due to this fact, the sugar surfactants are always biodegradable surfactants. The biodegradation of sugar surfactants in nature is also very fast, so they are also very environmentally friendly surfactants. Furthermore, sugar surfactants are also excellent skin-friendly and therefore find particular application in cosmetics, detergents, detergents and certain cleaning products.
There are several types of sugar surfactants such as alkyl polyglucosides (APGs), sucrose esters, methyl glycoside esters, ethyl glycoside esters, N-methylglucamides or sorbitan esters. However, the largest role is played by the alkyl polyglucosides. They find particular application in detergents and detergents. Alkyl polyglucosides consist of fatty acid residues, which usually contain between 8 and 14 carbon atoms in the chain. As a sugar component, various components such as glucose, sucrose and other sugars come into question. After industrial production there is a mixture of APGs with different alkyl chain lengths and several degrees of polymerisation of sugars. They are very environmentally friendly surfactants. Together with other surfactants, the APGs develop such a synergistic effect that between 20 and 50 percent surfactants can be saved. When the fatty acids of APGs are derived from coconut oil, they are also referred to as coco glucosides. These are mainly used in cosmetics.