Evonik has started construction of the world’s first commercial rhamnolipid production facility in their biotech hub in Slovenská Ľupča, Slovakia. With this new biosurfactant plant - a triple-digit million-euro investment - Evonik aims to become a pioneer of high-quality, sustainable biosurfactants.
Indeed, rhamnolipids are a class of biosurfactants which are sustainably manufactured via a fermentation process using European corn sugar as the main raw material, they are essential constituents of cleaning and personal care products.
The production of rhamnolipids from biogenic carbon requires no petrochemical feedstocks or tropical oils. In addition, rhamnolipids are fully biodegradable, and their low-impact life cycle means they are a sustainable alternative to conventional surfactants.
Rhamnolipids’ exceptional foam-forming properties make them suitable for use in household cleaners and personal care products like shampoos and micellar waters. Their pleasant taste also enables the formulation of oral care products, such as toothpaste, without strong taste masking components.
“Today is an important day for our partnership with Unilever, our employees in Slovakia, our Nutrition & Care division, and for our planet. We are delighted that the construction of our new biosurfactant plant is now underway,” says Yann d’Hervé, head of Evonik’s Care Solutions business line.
The Evonik Fermas plant was founded in 1992 as a joint venture between Degussa AG and the Slovakian company Biotika a.s. Evonik Fermas originally used biotechnology to produce amino acids for animal feed but quickly became adept at manufacturing a range of fermentation-based products for applications in animal nutrition, pharmaceutical products and the cosmetic and personal care industry. Over the years that followed, the site continued adding new products and investments, improved technologies and infrastructure. In 2016, Evonik Fermas ran the first pilot plant for the manufacture of sustainable biosurfactants via fermentation.