SBIR Phase I: Amphiphilic copolymers as thickening agents for personal care products

Award Information
National Science Foundation
Award Year:
Phase I
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
ATRP Solutions, Inc.
855 William Pitt Way, Pittsburgh, PA, 15238-0000
Hubzone Owned:
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator:
Laura Mueller
(412) 477-2705
Business Contact:
Laura Mueller
(412) 477-2705
Research Institution:

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project is directed towards the development of a non-ionic thickening agent for personal care products, which does not contain poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG). Reports have stated that commercially available PEG contains small levels of undesirable side products. Therefore, there is a strong need to create an efficient, "PEG-free" thickening agent. The proposed structure of the thickening agent is an amphiphilic copolymer, synthesized using a powerful polymerization technique known as atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP). A systematic library of copolymers will be synthesized during this project, with variations in the architecture of the molecule, the type of hydrophilic and hydrophobic groups used, and the molecular weight. The thickening properties of each molecule will be determined in an aqueous solution, such as a shampoo base. It is expected that the best performing copolymers will efficiently thicken cosmetic formulations at concentrations of less than 1% by weight. The information obtained from the synthesized polymeric library will determine which copolymer should be optimized for scale-up and commercialization. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is the need to replace PEG-based personal care additives, driven by reports that these materials contain toxic side products left after the manufacturing process, such as 1,4-dioxane, among others. The United States Food and Drug Administration recognizes PEG as a source of potential contaminants, and has monitored levels of 1,4-dioxane in personal care products since the late 1970s. Although current products on the market have minimal amounts of 1,4-dioxane, heightened consumer awareness is causing several companies to consider "PEG-free" alternatives, especially in more sensitive applications. Besides personal care and cosmetic products, PEG is also used in all polymeric drug delivery systems that are on the market. For this type of application, even small amounts of toxic compounds are unacceptable. The technology used in this proposed research to develop a PEG replacement has great potential to also be used in the development of novel drug delivery systems. Therefore, the product generated from this research project is expected to attract considerable attention from several areas of industry.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

Agency Micro-sites

US Flag An Official Website of the United States Government