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Polysaccharide-based Optical Brighteners

Polysaccharide-based Optical Brighteners




  • Business Finland
  • Budget:

    800 000 euro

    Åbo Akademi University's share of the budget:

    240 000 euro (30%)

    PolyBright – A two year Business Finland funded TUTLI project, where the aim is to commercialize a biobased non-toxic optical brightening agent.

    The project relates to development of bio-based and sustainable alternatives to optical brightening agents (OBAs) also known as fluorescent whitening agents. Commonly, OBAs are applied to a variety of materials and consumer products (paper, fabrics, plastics, detergents and cosmetics) to improve their visual appearance such as whiteness and brightness, and to bring the effect of cleanliness. The main feature of OBAs is fluorophores, which absorb ultraviolet radiation of the incident light and emit it back as a blue visible light. As a result, OBAs treated materials are perceived to be whiter. Despite of the widespread usage, ordinary OBAs have such drawbacks as instability, poor affinity and retention to the materials, and they are not easily biodegradable. Moreover, OBAs are banned in EU ECO labels and under pressure with implementation of REACH regulations. To overcome problems associated with ordinary OBAs, novel OBAs has been synthesized. They are based on polysaccharides derived from different sources including biomass. Specific fluorophores and charged moieties were incorporated into the macromolecule of polysaccharides as side groups by an esterification reaction. Fluorophores endowed the derivatives with functionality of OBAs, whereas charged groups improved affinity to the material (fiber, paper, fabric, etc.) and improved solubility of the derivatives in an aqueous medium. Designed polysaccharide-based optical brighteners showed significant whitening and brightening effect on the materials, and they possessed good optical stability, affinity to the materials and biodegradability. In addition, they can be transported and stored in dry form in contrast to conventional OBAs that are usually in water solution. This will reduce carbon footprint and reduce costs in transportation and storage. The potential business has a diversity of value chains including detergents, cosmetics, paper and board with a total market of 2 billion euro/year. The goal of our application is to build the basis for creating an SME based in Finland that will focus on current emerging market of bio-based chemicals.