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Green synthesis of sustainable BIO-sourced multi-functional ingredient for skinCARE applications (BIO4CARE)

The current social awareness and demand for cosmetic products based on natural ingredients are forcing the industry and scientific community into searching for safe and sustainable solutions to combat the excessive use of synthetic compounds in their formulations.

The main objective of the “Green synthesis of sustainable BIO-sourced multi-functional ingredient for skinCARE applications” (BIO4CARE) Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, is to increase the sustainability of the formulations for skin photo-protection with an innovative and bio-based alternative through the revalorization of kraft lignin. Kraft lignin is an industrially available renewable compound generated as a by-product from cellulose pulp manufacturing. It has diverse intrinsic functionalities such as UV absorption capacity and antioxidant properties, making it especially attractive to be exploited as a natural alternative for skin and sun care applications. Moreover, lignin recovery from side streams and conversion into a valuable product for high-value applications would contribute to the further development of biorefineries from a circular economy perspective.

The BIO4CARE project has a duration of two years and comprises multidisciplinary tasks addressing different research areas to achieve the project’s specific objectives. Since the project started in May 2021, I have reinforced interdisciplinary aspects of my research through collaboration with other experts. For instance, in close collaboration with Nežka Sajinčič, a psychology expert from InnoRenew CoE, we designed and distributed a survey to explore potential customers’ knowledge and attitudes towards lignin-based sunscreen, their motives or barriers to purchasing it and how it relates to their environmental and health consciousness. The results of this research were published as an open access peer-review article in Cosmetics.

During the first year of the project, I also had the opportunity to visit and interact with researchers from different areas of expertise from institutions in Spain (Health Division of Tecnalia), Sweden (Division of Wood Chemistry and Pulp Technology, Department of Fiber and Polymer Technology, School of Chemistry, Biotechnology and Health, KTH Royal Institute of Technology) and Austria (TU Wien and Lignovations GmbH) to work on experimental tasks related to the characterization of colloidal lignin particle´s functionalities (morphology, size, surface chemistry, toxicity and other functional properties such as antioxidant and antibacterial properties, UV-absorption, etc.) as well as the evaluation of their behavior under UV irradiation.

Scientific visit to the Health Division of TECNALIA Research & Innovation in Spain to study the cytotoxic properties of colloidal particles synthesized from kraft lignin.

In addition, I co-supervised the master’s thesis “Evaluation of LNPs as an emulsion stabilizer in Pickering emulsions for cosmetic applications” of master’s student Nicole Blazevic from the University of Maribor, Slovenia.

MSc student Nicole Blazevic and Dr. Oihana Gordobil evaluating the stability of the developed Pickering emulsion using a digital microscope (InnoRenew CoE, Slovenia).

Outreach and communication activities are a very important part of the project. Therefore, in collaboration with InnoRenew CoE’s communication experts CoE, we have created the BIO4CARE project identity and website, where an overview and approach of the project as well as the main activities and results are regularly published. Additionally, I have actively participated in the COST Action CA 17128 (LignoCOST) conferences, workshops, and training courses to acquire new and complementary knowledge in in the field.

TEM images of elaborated LNPs obtained during the scientific visit to the Fibre and Polymer Technology department, KTH – Royal Institute of Technology (Stockholm, Sweden).

Dr. Oihana Gordobil, InnoRenew CoE resrecaher