Since January 2013 Voronezh State University and EFKO Group has been working together within the framework of a complex project "Developing a hi-tech industry for plant oil and fibre processing and transformation into non-food products" conducted under the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation No 218 (the head of the project is Khidmet Shikhaliev). In 2014 the members of the academic staff from the Fundamental Department of Natural Compounds Chemistry organised at the Faculty of Chemistry joined the staff members from the Department of Organic Chemistry in their work on the project. The fundamental department was created in continuation and development of the partnership between the University and the company which started in 2011 with the signing of the strategic agreement on cooperation in the fields of educational and research activities.
Collaborative research, experimental and technical works, resulted in the development of a new way of processing plant oil into non-food products. Research done by EFKO Group in the field of oleochemistry includes an extensive programme for the development of new products in the segment of perfumes and cosmetics. The implementation of such technologies involves usage of renewable natural resources and their non-waste recycling into high-tech products – compositions of surface-active substances (SAS) that correspond with the market tendencies and meet the consumers' needs. The advantage of SAS synthesised on the basis of raw plant fat and / or fat-and-oil industry wastes is their biodegradability which leads to the reduction of the negative impact on the environment.
Efficient cooperation resulted in the development of methods to synthesise new types of SAS from plant oil and plant fibre viscosity increasing agents. Such compounds are widely used in different manufacturing sectors including the cosmetics industry, paint and coatings industry, textile industry, construction industry, etc. These developments benefit from usage of natural renewable raw materials which makes synthesised substances safer in comparison with similar SAS made from oil products. Unique methods of analytical control of synthetic processes and desired product purity based on the chromatography analysis methods were suggested in the course of collaborative work.
Due to new technologies and new organic materials it has become possible to create various cosmetic products which all together are able to improve skin integument condition. The most important components of such compositions defining their characteristics are emollients with prominent skin softening and moisturising properties. Their main distinctive feature is that they stay in the corneal layer or at the skin surface reducing peeling and dryness. These substances form a film on the skin which prevents water from evaporating from the deep layers of epidermis. The emollients synthesised in the framework of the collaborative project are the derivatives of plant oil fatty acids. The synthesised substances can be combined in different proportions in order to produce compositions with more efficient foam-forming, foam-stabilizing, dispersant and detergent action.
Within the framework of this project a new promising field in oleochemistry is being developed: the possibility of introducing heterocyclic units into the SAS structure to provide a number of new properties (anticorrosion, antimicrobial and others) is being investigated. Environmental issues are given special attention.
Not only the lecturers from the Faculty of Chemistry and EFKO staff members but also VSU students and postgraduate students take part in the research within this complex project. The project of Aleksandra Peregudova, a postgraduate student of the Department of Organic Chemistry of the Faculty of Chemistry, "Preparation of ozonated plant oil derivatives with high rates of residual desaturated fatty acids with high biological and antioxidant activity" serves as a continuation of the research in the field of oleochemistry.
"On the whole, EFKO Group positively assesses its experience of collaboration with VSU scientists. Certainly, it is not always easy for business representatives and company's staff members to find a common language with the representatives of the academic community. However, the company and the University managed to build an efficient partnership and achieve good results during the project implementation. The developed technologies have high market potential and can become another turning point in the company's business growth. Moreover, while implementing the project the company established dialogue with the University in the field of personnel training for innovative production plants, and a unique Fundamental Department of Natural Compounds Chemistry where EFKO staff members and promising young people take training courses was opened. The project has significant import phase-out potential since today the majority of soft SAS used to manufacture cosmetics and personal hygiene products are imported. Furthermore, a large number of personal hygiene products also come from other countries. New technologies will make it possible to reverse the situation and provide Russian citizens with quality products made in Russia from Russian raw materials," Tatyana Sanina, the Business Administration Director at the Department of Oleochemical Business at OAO EFKO, commented on the project.