Cigi develops unique industrial hand cleaner

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Cigi is helping industry realize the commercialization of their products with the recent formulation of a vegetable oil-based biodegradable hand cleaner and modification of a penetrating oil previously developed for lubricating machine parts. (Also see January x, 2012 post ‘Mustard passes muster in industrial applications’).

Dr. Rex Newkirk, Cigi Director of Research and Business Development, says he called upon his scientific expertise, supported by advice from other specialists, to formulate an industrial-strength hand cleaner made with natural biodegradable ingredients from Canadian crops.

“It was really a matter of chemistry,” he says. “The company we have been doing this for, Avitas Industries in New Brunswick, has the channels to produce, distribute, and market the product, but doesn’t have a PhD on staff to provide the chemical know-how so they used Cigi to obtain that information.”

Tom O’Keefe, CEO of Avitas Industries, agrees. “Rex and Cigi have been extremely helpful, assisting us with networking within the processed oil industry as well as to make us aware of opportunities with different combinations and derivatives of the oils. We had identified a number of different products but we don’t have a physical lab on site, nor access to all of the different components that we have to go through to actually make the product, so Cigi has been very necessary for us.”

He explains that his company has been focusing on the feasibility of products in the works. “There were a number of products or concepts sitting on the shelf. So I short listed them based on market research that I did and looked at basically what would give the company the quickest traction for the rest of the products. That’s really where I identified hand cleaner very early on as something that was needed and wanted in the marketplace.”

Since then, Cigi developed the product, differentiating it from other strong industrial hand cleaners. “This cleaner can be used for any application but was designed mainly for mechanics working with heavy grease,” Rex says. “Typically these products leave the hands really chapped so a product developed from vegetable oil has a couple of advantages. One, it leaves hands reasonably soft, and the other is that it’s designed to be 100 percent biodegradable for safe use in food facilities as well as for organic applications.”

He says the design requirements were challenging, acknowledging that a powerful cleaner could have been more easily developed with the use of chemicals. Finding a successful chemical-free formula required a number of attempts.

The cleaner is almost ready for the marketplace, according to Tom who says test samples are currently being distributed. “We have interest presently from Germany, the Caribbean, Florida and the Great Lakes area. There are a couple of major distributors interested and they are still doing some due diligence on it so there’s nothing nailed down yet as far as sales but the samples have resulted in very good attention and interest. I think we’re just a couple of weeks away from some pretty major breakthroughs as far as getting it to market.”

Rex says he is continuing to work with Avitas to modify the product, looking for an appropriate fragrance to add and developing a gel version of the liquid cleaner which is more popular for industrial use. In addition, he is working on improving the efficiency of a penetrating oil he had also developed for the company.

“We have six or seven of the major brands of penetrating oil being used for comparative tests based on how much torque it takes to turn a (rusted) bolt and that kind of thing under equal conditions,” Tom says. “We’re looking for a little bit more penetration of the lubricant so we might be adding something else to make it actually eat into the rust a little bit more. It is as good as anything else on the market, so if we can up the ante a little bit I think it will make it more attractive.

“When you’re dealing with natural substances, the environmental world, it’s very important to have vast, third party, arms-length verification of everything and that’s where Rex has been invaluable,“ he adds.

Rex says his assistance in developing industrial products such as hand cleaners, grease products or spray adjuvents reflect part of Cigi’s innovation strategy to look for opportunities for people using Canadian field crops. “We want to not just sell our crops but help industry develop new opportunities to get into markets. So that is why we did this.”

 For more information: rnewkirk@cigi.ca

Article originally published in Cigi.ca e-publication, Fall 2011.