The birth of an affordable, sustainable, more-powerful gunk-getter

March 24, 2014 |

Red paint, brush and can MET-10 iStock_000012616152LargeStep aside, you crud-caked brushes and surfaces.

Here comes the improbably green and affordable Steposol to add power to the “clean” in Cleantech.

And illuminate a path towards commercialization for those with technologies that will follow.

In Illinois, Stepan is debuting the “surfactant as a solvent” Steposol MET-10U — one of the first commercial products to hit the market that combines the Triple Threat of high performance, competitive price and green attributes. Based on Elevance’s novel chemical building blocks, it also gives us a good look at how the commercialization of key renewables technologies might play out. That is to say, how powerful partners will step in, and when, and why, based on the opportunity seen in the molecule. Steposol MET-10U, a novel cleaning solution derived from natural oils, targeted to displace solvents, and the first commercial product from Stepan as part of its joint development agreement with Elevance Renewable Sciences, Inc. The Development Agreement was established to develop and commercialize new surfactants and other products by combining Elevance’s novel Inherent building blocks with Stepan’s derivatization and application capabilities.

What is it, exactly?

Consider a dry old paint brush, caked with old paint. As any householder knows, you can’t just drop the brush into a mineral spirit (a traditional solvent) and make the brush like new. It just doesn’t do that much, because the mineral spirit can’t reach all the paint. That’s where a surfactant comes in — a wetting agent that allows the solvent to penetrate more deeply and clean more thoroughly. But that’s two products. What if you could develop a surfactant that — after it completes the wetting — acts like a solvent and strips away all that paint? That’s Stepasol MET-10U, in a nutshell.

The performance

glue“Opportunities like this don’t come along that often,” Stepan’s Rob Slone, VP of Surfactant Product Development, told the Digest. “Usually you have to give up something for something else. Now it can really grab on, and can be a wetting agent and cleaning agent, at the same time.” As a household cleaner, it delivers better and faster cleaning performance at half the solvent loading with neutral pH in comparison to alkaline degreasers (pH 11-13). As an adhesive remover, it provides equivalent removal of various adhesives at 5% concentration in aqueous phase compared with 100% N-methyl pyrrolidone. As a paint remover, it removes latex paint at 5% concentration in aqueous phase compared with 100% solvent systems with methylene chloride. “Steposol MET-10U changes the dynamics of cleaning by utilizing surfactant technology in place of a solvent and delivering superior performance,” said Richard Stepan, Business Manager for Household, Institutional and Industrial Products. “It creates powerful, sustainable cleaning solutions in a wide range of applications.”

The cost

“The cost in use is extremely competitive,” Slone said. “It can use a 5% level compared to what’s used today in solvents. That delivers a lot of value

Applications and markets

Oven Cleaning MET-10U iStock_000023677978Medium“The opportunities to scale this are there,” Slone said. “Solvent markets are $45B, it’s a huge opportunity space using this type of material and different formulations for different end use areas we are targeting in our development.”

The green attributes

This product utilizes a naturally derived, metathesized feedstock to form a bio-based surfactant that achieves sustainability goals while improving cleaning performance. The applications for Steposol MET-10U are broad, including adhesive removal, paint and coating removal systems, kitchen degreasers and all-purpose cleaners for both consumer and industrial uses.

The Stepan – Elevance collaboration

Since 2010, when the joint development agreement was signed, Stepan has produced and screened derivatives of Elevance Inherent building blocks and performed physical property and application tests to determine novel performance. “Steposol MET-10U is another example of how Elevance is working with other companies to create better performing products with a smaller environmental footprint,” said Elevance Senior Vice President, Consumer & Industrial Ingredients, Andy Corr. “Replacing solvents with sustainable surfactant technology that has improved performance is a significant advancement for industry and consumers.”

The specific performance attributes

Steposol MET-10U specific product attributes include its Kauri-butanol value greater than 1000; boiling point of 297°C; Biorenewable Carbon Index of 75%; and formulating pH range of 3-12. These parameters create a high-strength and non-volatile surfactant, which provides faster and more effective cleaning by fulfilling the role of both a low HLB surfactant and a strong solvent.

Scale to commercial

“This is a global launch,” said Slone. “In many ways, this was enabled by Elevance’s opening of its commercial-scale plant in [Gresik] Indonesia, because now there’s the scale to get the costs right, and also for the volume to support programs like this.”

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