The Sirius Effect:
Why? The most fundamental question can direct us to paths that we wouldn’t have considered otherwise. Rethinking the way we’ve always done things can lead us down greener paths, and to avenues we’ve never thought were possible.
In life, there are certain inevitabilities, death and taxes being two of the most famous ones. But a lot of the little things in our daily lives seem inevitable, too: detergents and similar liquids have a certain viscosity to them, lubricants are greasy, medication comes in brightly-colored tablets. All of these have one ingredient in common: PEG.
Polyethylene glycol is used in many industries: medications (primarily in pill coatings and in some surgical liquids), as thickener in cleaning agents, as a lubricant in hydraulic fluid, to thicken coatings, and even in food (as an antifoaming agent). PEG has the curious property of being able to bind many water molecules along its main body, while the ends remain more hydrophobic. The chain length dictates how many water molecules can be bound, and therefore allows it to be used in a variety of ways. For example, in the coatings industry, PEGs with a molecular weight of up to 400 are used to keep water in paints, so that the paints stay hydrated during the process of applying them. However, PEGs with a molecular weight of 3-4000 are used as thickeners, because their hydrophobic heads form a network with each other which helps immobilize the rest of the paint. In cleaning agents and detergents, PEG is often used as a thickening agent, a penetration enhancer, and a water carrier. But again, different uses require different chain lengths.
PEG is non-toxic and biodegradable, but the manufacturing of PEG involves ethylene oxide and ethylene glycol, which are both toxic. Ethylene oxide, in fact, is used as a disinfectant, while ethylene glycol is the main component of antifreeze. But when they are polymerized together, the resulting molecule is safe, so much so that it is even used in gene therapy to prevent the immune system from recognizing the viral vector.
Until recently, though, the idea that PEG should be bio-based was not really considered. In the 1950s, when industrial processes were developed enough to produce ethylene oxide and ethylene glycol on a large scale, environmental concerns were actually not a priority. But Sirius has found a producer who can make bio-based Ethoxybrite PEG, so that you can be that much greener. These Ethoxybrite PEGs are derived from the non-edible, fibrous byproducts of sugar production (bagasse) and are identical to those made the conventional way. However, the range of molecular weights available is, as yet, somewhat limited, so if you are interested in going that much greener, please let us know what your application is so we can assist you.
The development of eco-friendly polymers has now been happening for nearly 40 years, and market analysts predict that it will become a $13 billion industry by 2025, as consumers become increasingly more concerned with sustainability, environment and the care for next generations. So why wait to take the plunge?
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