Three-Way Catalytic Distillation to Renewable Surfactants via Triglycerides* 

Lead Team Member: Paul Dauenhauer (PI), University of Minnesota

Supporting Team Members : Khalid Rashid, Babatunde Ogunnaike

*Awarded to the University of Minnesota

Societal demand for affordable, environmentally friendly products is increasing.

This project will establish more efficient methods for converting renewable feedstocks, such as coconut and soybean oil, into useful compounds called surfactants, which can be used in detergents, emulsifiers and dispersing agents.

Plant-based surfactants currently face huge challenges in terms of cost and manufacturing processes, compared to fossil-based counterparts.

University of Minnesota’s Paul Dauenhauer is leading research to make these sustainable products competitive in the market, with Babatunde Ogunnaike at the University of Delaware and Christoph Krumm at Sironix Renewables.

The work involves advancing a new class of surfactants that offer 100-times improved function in hard water conditions.

The research team will deliver a first-of-its-kind manufacturing process that combines multiple catalytic chemistries into a single reactive distillation process, in order to increase energy efficiency and reduce cost. The project also will produce important insights into novel ways to pair three-catalyst operations with separation processes.

Additionally, the research team will leverage design insights and computer modeling and simulation techniques to explore modular chemical processes that can drive even further improvements.

The work draws on the University of Minnesota’s expertise in catalysis, separation and reaction engineering; the University of Delaware’s extensive innovation in catalysis and chemical processing; and Sironix Renewables’ strength in turning plant-based ingredients into functional chemicals.

UD RAPID Partners