Science 3 min read

This New Soap is a Victory for Humans and the Environment

135pixels |

135pixels |

Let’s face it, cleanliness is a mark of civilization, and for most, that means a dependency on soap. Mass-producing soap is done using chemicals that have a profound impact upon the environment. University of Delaware scientists have invented a new soap molecule using renewable resources.

Why is Soap so Important, Anyway?

Effective sanitation has improved the health of our species. As we have improved these cleanly practices over the millennia, being clean has become a human need. To address this, companies produced and shipped new soap products all over the world. The chemicals that they used changed during years of trial and error. Now, the process costs little and produces massive amounts of soap at the expense of the ecosystem. Environmental concerns have charged every industry to use renewable resources.

Environmental concerns have charged every industry to use renewable resources.Click To Tweet

Additionally, soap producing companies have left innovations lying around. For example, most soaps don’t lather well in hard water. Homeowners hoping to stay clean and uncalcified have to look elsewhere to solve their water problems, and this usually means additional cost.

University of Delaware scientists may have solved both problems. Their new soap molecule is not only made from renewable resources, but it also lathers well in hard water. The team is part of the U.S. Department of Energy funded Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation (CCEI). Aside from creating new biofuels, this team finds innovative ways to replace harmful chemicals in commonly used materials.

A Brand new Kind of Soap

The invention is detailed in a study published by the American Chemical Society‘s ACS Central Science. Co-author Paul Dauenhauer explains how the new soap is made and how it works.

Paul Dauenhauer |
Paul Dauenhauer |

According to Dauenhauer, they created a soap molecule from natural products such as soybeans, coconuts, and corn. It outperformed other soaps made from harmful chemicals. Most commercial soaps and detergents are produced using fossil fuel energy. A natural alternative could make a big difference in keeping our environment clean.

“According to Dauenhauer, they created a soap molecule from natural products such as soybeans, coconuts, and corn.”

The new soap molecule is called Oleo-Furan-Surfactant (OFS), and researchers found that it worked in cold water where conventional soaps could not. OFS soaps are capable of creating soap particles called micelles in cold and hard water, which are necessary for the cleaning effect of soap. Without the production of micelles, soap becomes useless, solid goo as soap particles bind with the minerals in the water.

Thus far, combating hard water problem has required the use of even more chemicals, most of which can be harmful to the planet.

The OFS soap is entirely biodegradeable. It foams up with a consistency found in conventional soaps, meaning that it could replace a wide swath of soap products and detergents. Most importantly, it is cheaper to produce. Hear that, soap companies?

For anyone who has to suffer hard water conditions, relief may come soon. The CCEI has been working on biofuels and renewable chemical research since 2009. With the strong backing of the DoE, we and the Earth will soon be cleaner than ever.

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Comments (3)
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    Isaac Hesson April 05 at 9:17 am GMT

    Does hard water affect the body? and what is the benefit of this new soap for the bad effect of hard water, if any?

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      Claire Smith April 08 at 9:42 am GMT

      Hard water can give you skin trouble like dryness, itchiness, and dandruff. 🙁

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