This project focuses on the innovative production and use of sugar esters, obtained by reacting a sugar with a (fatty) acid.

Sugar esters are non-ionic surfactants which generally have very good emulsifying, stabilising or conditioning effects. Moreover, they are readily biodegradable, non-toxic, non-skin irritant, odorless, tasteless and give normal food products after digestion. For these reasons, they are used in many different applications and products, such as pharmaceuticals, detergents, cosmetics, and in the agri-food industry. They can be produced chemically, generally at high(er) temperatures in the presence of an alkaline catalyst, or enzymatically at more moderate conditions in an organic solvent using lipases or proteases.

In the first two years of the project, lab-scale production and ‘in vitro’ testing of relevant sugar esters is targeted. If lab-scale production turns out to be technically (and economically) feasible, production on kg-scale will be pursued in a second stage. VITO contributes in particular to the enzymatic process development and optimization.

The project is funded by The Flemish Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (VLAIO) and supported by Catalisti, the spearhead cluster for chemistry and plastics.