German chemical giant BASF is planning to form a joint venture with South Korean chemical company Hannong Chemicals to produce non-ionic surfactants in Asia Pacific.

Called BASF Hannong Chemicals Solutions, BASF said on 6 October that it would own 51% of the joint venture with Hannong Chemicals holding the remaining stake.

Located in the Daejuk site at the Daesan Industrial Complex in Korea, the joint venture would combine BASF’s technology and product capabilities with Hannong’s production of non-ionic surfactant products.

Expected to become operational in the first half of next year, the joint venture would involve both companies maintaining their own sales and distribution networks.

“With this proposed joint venture, BASF continues to establish the capability to further serve the Asian market, by offering speciality non-ionic surfactants,” BASF Care Chemicals president Ralph Schweens said.

Used in a wide range of industry sectors, including home care, personal care, industrial and institutional cleaning applications as well as industrial formulations, non-ionic surfactants are used in formulations for laundry detergents, surface cleaners and dishwasher detergents, as well as for leather and textile treatment, metal surface cleaning and other applications.

Surfactants or surface-active agents help lower the surface tension between a liquid and another liquid, gas or solid. They are a key ingredient in cleaning products and have a water-loving head (hydrophilic) and water-hating (hydrophobic) tail. The hydrophobic tails are attracted to dirt while the hydrophilic heads help to wet things more uniformly. The hydrophilic head of each surfactant is electrically charged (negative, positive or neutral), and a surfactant is classified as anionic, non-ionic, cationic or amphoteric, depending on the charge.

Non-ionic surfactants have a neutral charge and are very good at emulsifying oils. Common non-ionic surfactants include ethoxylates, alkoxylates and cocoamides.

Surfactants are mainly petroleum-based but there is growing interest in bio-based surfactants.