Consumer products

Goods for everyday use are constantly being developed by manufacturers. Innovation is the name of the game for the development of consumer products. Longer shelf life, better performance and lower production costs make an item more appealing for the consumer. The ESRF has a role to play. 
Developing new cosmetic or cleaning products demands high-performance characterisation tools that allow researchers to visualise complex nanostructured materials across all relevant length scales. Synchrotron X-rays offer a complementary technique to electron microscopy that provides in-depth information about the rheology and stability of products and allows studies of the body’s tolerance to new product formulations.
Foods are also complex mixtures of components with diverse thermal, mechanical, rheological and ageing properties. Synchrotron techniques allow researchers to correlate the macroscopic properties of a sample with its microstructure, helping companies meet consumer demand for nutritional value, novelty and ease of use, across products ranging from bread to butter.

  • Study the microstructure of consumer goods for their improvement.
  • Studying real product behavior in different sample environments.
  • Analysis of materials in real in situ processes simulating industrial processing conditions.
  • Detect trace elements and map molecular groups and structures on the nanoscale using infrared spectroscopy.

CASE STUDIES

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Company

Unilever

Challenge

Hair conditioners are based on a dispersion of liquid crystalline phases that work with the flow of water to lubricate and protect hair fibres. The stability of such products is vital for guaranteeing consistent performance. The validation of stability can be done with characterisation techniques that measure physical properties of the bulk product, such as rheology, pH, light scattering and calorimetry. However, it is difficult to understand what and how underlying microstructures influence the bulk properties and any changes that occur over time.

Sample

Ingredients of conditioner products and their permutations.

Solution

The team used small angle X-ray scattering at ID02 to monitor the microstructure evolution of the products at critical intervals during a three-month trial.

Benefits

The experiment proved instrumental in providing a mechanistic understanding of how a hair conditioner microstructure evolves with the passage of time, from factory to consumer.

Company

Procter & Gamble (P&G)

Challenge

As much as 90% of the energy used to wash clothes goes towards heating the water in washing machines, so one of the main goals for companies like P&G is to develop detergents that work at lower temperatures. The majority of liquid detergent formulations exist as micellar solutions to ensure easy dosing and fast dissolution, but this requires the formula to have a high water content. If the water content is reduced, liquid crystals will start to form unless organic solvent is added, which adds more to the cost of a product and dents its environmental credentials. Another approach is to formulate it as liquid crystal, but the presence of other ions typically destabilises the product and causes “phase splits”.

Sample

Anionic surfactants, enzymes, polymers.

Solution

Researchers at P&G want to have a better knowledge of the microstructure of the colloidal formulations in order to tune the performance and stability of products, and meet the company´s environmental sustainability targets. Small Angle X-ray Scattering was used to map the phase diagram of Ariel Excel Gel to determine the regions that are physically stable within the formulation space of interest.

Benefits

Ariel Excel Gel, boasts cleaning at 15 °C thanks to specially designed enzymes and polymers, offering considerable energy savings. It is also highly concentrated, requiring less water to manufacture and reducing transport and storage costs. It has become the first liquid detergent with a liquid-crystal microstructure with the lowest water content possible without the use of organic solvent.

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