Enzyme-based detergents and the nanostructure of cellulose fibres

Danish company, Novozymes, is a world leader in the industrial production of enzymes for a range of applications, including laundry detergents. Enzymes in detergents can help to degrade soils attached to fabrics at a low wash temperature, improve softness, and enhance colour brightness.1,2

The challenge

Novozymes wanted to understand how enzymes affect the cellulose fibers in cotton fabrics by, for example, making the fabric more resistant to picking up dirt, or retaining the experience of newness for longer.

The experiment

Supported by colleagues from University of Copenhagen (LINX project), Novozymes undertook measurements using small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) and spin-echo SANS (SESANS) techniques at the Budapest Neutron Centre and the Technical University of Delft, respectively.

The results

Three fabric samples were investigated either dry or wet (soaked in water or heavy water). The neutron measurements revealed features of the nano-/micro-structures of the fabric fiber network.

SESANS measurements: the differences of the curves in shape and intensity reveal features of nano-/micro-structures of the fabric fibre network.
"SESANS extends the length scale probed by regular SANS from the nano- to the micro-meter region, enabling us to model the average dimensions of the cellulose fibre walls and distinguish our samples."

Thomas H. Callisen
Senior Manager, Novozymes