Polymeric surfactants, past, present and future


Scientific advisory board of H&PC Today – household and Personal Care today (TKS Publisher)

In the mid 1980 I was preparing a brochure to support a new range of specialty surfactants that were presented (in part improperly) as “polymeric surfactants”. It proved difficult to explain to the potential customers  in the space of a brochure why these surfactants were superior to those (at the time) widely known and used,  like linear alkylbenzene sulphonates, or nonyl phenol and fatty alcohols ethoxylates and why they commanded prices two or three times higher. I eventually decided to allow more space to illustrate the theory behind these surface active polymers, the possible structures that could be conceived and the resulting unique interfacial properties and with the help of ICI technologists like Allan Baker and Tharwat Tadros I produced a paper that was presented at the second World Surfactants Congress in Munich in May 1984.

I was so taken by the job, so fascinated by the concept of polymeric surfactant and of steric stabilization that I completely overlooked that polymeric, or at least oligomeric surfactants, already existed since quite a bit of time. EO/PO direct, inverse, block or random copolymers were already there since at least a generation, napht ...