Developing Environmentally Friendly Anionic Surfactant Manufacturing Technologies

Lion uses anionic surfactant methyl ester sulfonate (MES) derived from palm oil as one of the main washing ingredients in its laundry detergents (Figure 1). Made from plant-based raw materials, MES is carbon neutral, while also delivering high detergency, stability in hard water, and excellent biodegradability. Reflecting these properties, MES is attracting worldwide attention as an environmentally friendly high-performance surfactant.

Because MES is easily discolored during the reactions used to produce it, achieving efficient, low-cost production had long been extremely difficult. However, after developing proprietary bleaching technology, Lion became the first in the world to successfully produce MES on an industrial scale in 1991. From there, seeking to make MES a global standard, Lion worked to improve product quality and devise a simpler, safer manufacturing method. In particular, to address MES’s tendencies to take on color and hydrolyze, Lion advanced research by integrating knowledge of interface science and chemical engineering with the aim of suppressing side reactions in the production process. Through these efforts, we developed new, unprecedented MES production technology.

To supply MES to the world, Lion built a factory in Malaysia where it utilizes the new MES production technology.

R&D Case Study