The Need for Sustainable Chemistry

The chemical industry faces several significant hurdles on the road to becoming more sustainable. Plans are being made to make manufacturing processes more environmentally friendly by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and waste. However, these developments will take a long time to implement, considering the scale and feasibility of changes needed to be made within the existing chemical manufacturing infrastructure.

The chemical industry may drive towards sustainability quicker by switching to renewable and biodegradable raw materials. For several industries, including coatings, inks, agriculture, and investment casting, carrageenan is a sustainable resource extracted from seaweed that can offer numerous functionalities and benefits as an additive. 

SeaSpen® Carrageenan

SeaSpen® carrageenan is extracted from a red seaweed called Eucheuma spinosum that is farmed in locations with warmer climates. The farming process of this seaweed typically only takes 6–8 weeks and involves a replanting process using roughly 10% of the farmed seaweed. 

In terms of chemistry, SeaSpen® is an iota-carrageenan hydrocolloid that can form weak gels after being heated and introduced to calcium ions in water. When cooled, gelling occurs, owing to double helix structures that form as a result of interactions between calcium ions and sulfonate groups on the carrageenan polysaccharides. At low concentrations, SeaSpen® can also act as a thickener.

Below is a diagram of iota-carrageenan and the carrageenan double helix structure formed during gelation. 

Iota-carrageenan                Double-helix gel structure

The main beneficial properties that SeaSpen® carrageenan can provide to chemical formulations are as follows:

  • Rheology modification and thixotropy
  • Gelation
  • Stabilization
  • Prevention of syneresis

Industrial Applications for SeaSpen®

With the properties of SeaSpen® carrageenan described above in mind, a few examples of applications within the chemical industry that benefit from its use are presented below. 

Coatings and Inks

In many coating and ink applications, control of flow properties is crucial for applying and creating complete coverage on intended substrates. When used in low concentrations, SeaSpen® IN acts as a thickener and provides thixotropy to coating and ink formulations. This allows for better leveling, precision in film thickness, and ease of application onto substrates. In addition, SeaSpen® IN helps to control syneresis and provides stabilization of emulsions and dispersions, both of which prolong the shelf life of coatings and inks. Given that it is biodegradable, SeaSpen® IN is especially ideal for biodegradable packaging applications. 

 

 

Agricultural Concentrates

Agrochemical formulations such as fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides are typically supplied as suspension concentrates. Active ingredients in these formulations must be suspended and stabilized to provide efficient coverage when applied to crops. For this reason, SeaSpen® GP379 is an ideal suspension stabilization agent used at low concentrations to prevent the aggregation of active ingredient solids. SeaSpen® GP379 is biodegradable, conforms to FDA 40 CFR 180.910, 180.920, and 180.930, and is registered with the EPA. Thus, it can be added to agrochemical formulations with minimized impact on human health and the environment. 

 

 

Insect Bait Gel Formulations

In this application, SeaSpen® GP379 is leveraged as a gelling agent to create gel formulations stabilized with insecticide and bait. In some cases, insect bait gels are placed within cracks or areas that aren’t entirely flat. The gel that SeaSpen® GP379 forms will allow the bait to remain in the area it was applied to without spilling out. As SeaSpen® GP379 helps to control and prevent syneresis in addition to stabilizing active ingredients, insect bait gel formulations will also retain their original concentrations for longer periods, increasing their timeframe for effectiveness. Gels made with SeaSpen® 379 are also freeze-thaw stable and therefore help preserve the efficacy of insect gel baits during colder times of the year. 

 

 

Investment Casting

The investment casting process involves using a ceramic slurry that coats a pattern typically made of wax or plastics. This slurry eventually creates the investment that the liquid metal is poured into for developing and shaping metal parts. The ceramic slurry is often composed of various small particles made of inorganic chemistry, such as silica, alumina, zircon, or aluminum silicate. To ensure that these particles are sufficiently dispersed within the ceramic slurry, SeaSpen® IN can be used to increase stability within the slurry. SeaSpen® IN will also increase the slurry’s viscosity, improving coverage onto the pattern and making the investment formation process more efficient. 

 

 

SeaSpen® Grades

ChemPoint offers two grades of SeaSpen® carrageenan. Their recommended use cases are listed below:

Grade Type Recommended Use
SeaSpen® IN Iota-carrageenan Suspension aid, stabilization aid, and thickener
SeaSpen® GP379 Iota-carrageenan Gelling agent and thickener 

 

Solutions can be made by slowly dispersing SeaSpen® carrageenan into rapidly agitated cold water along with any other solid ingredients in the formulation. The solution should then be heated to a temperature of approximately 70°C, then allowed to cool. During the cooling process, either a thickened solution or weak gel will be formed, depending on the concentration of SeaSpen® used and calcium ions introduced. For applications requiring thickening, a 0.02 wt% concentration is recommended to start, building from there to achieve the desired viscosity. 

Summary

Many manufacturers within the chemical space adopt sustainable chemistry in their products by using renewable, bio-based, and biodegradable additives. SeaSpen® carrageenan is an ideal additive for several industries, including coatings, inks, agriculture, and investment casting, where it provides thickening, thixotropy, gelation, and syneresis control benefits. Since SeaSpen® is renewably sourced from red seaweed, it is also biodegradable. Its functionality and minimal environmental impact make it an excellent raw material for achieving sustainable chemistry goals in the chemical industry.  

ChemPoint is your resource to help answer any questions on SeaSpen® and work with you to develop your application further. Click below to take the next steps and ask for a quote or sample.

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