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Research focuses on how to enhance surfactants

By Simon Pitman , 14-Feb-2013
Last updated on 14-Feb-2013 at 17:40 GMT

A research team at the University of Delaware is conducting research to enhance the coacervates properties of surfactant ingredient in a bid to enhance formulation efficacy.

Coacervates are a polymer –surfactant complex that are most widely known to treat dandruff or moisturize dry skin, making them a very important component in a wide number of cosmetic and personal care formulations.

The substance releases materials, such as oil droplets that moisturized hair when it is exposed to an external compound, such as water.

Coacervation comes from activating a formulation with water

“Most people don’t realize that when you rub shampoo and water in your hands, coacervation is occurring,” explains Dongcui Li, a fourth year graduate student in the University of Delaware’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

The research is focusing on how coacervates form and bind to target surfaces to then find a rapid molecular approach to the design of engineering complex polymer-surfactant materials found in formulations.

Li adds that by discovering more about the molecular reactions that govern the selectivity of the coacervation process, the ultimate aim will be to make the delivery process more precise and the formulation more effective.

Coacertive helps delivery of active ingredients

Specific to anti-dandruff shampoo, the antibacterial agents that help eliminate the dandruff are activated when the coacertive comes in contact with warm water, in turn delivering it to the scalp in a targeted fashion.

“Unlocking how the chemical structure combines to yield the desired mechanical and thermodynamic properties of the coacervate could open new doors for creating a wide variety of consumer products and biomedicines,” said Norman Wagner, Alvin B and Julie O Stiles Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

Li says she intends to present her doctoral work at the Excellence in Graduate Polymer Research Symposium of the American Chemical Society (ACS) national meeting to be held April 7-11 in New Orleans.

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