How is Silica Made: Sand Silica vs. Biosilica

The Old Way

Today, silica is traditionally sourced as a by-product of sand dredging or open pit mining leading to substantial C02 emissions. In fact, sand is the world’s second most consumed natural resourceDemand for sand and silica used in fracking, road construction, and everyday materials like glass, have significantly increased the incidence of dredging and open pit mining.  Silica has wide usage in industrial, consumer, and pharmaceutical applications. It also demonstrates high levels of performance in skin care and color cosmetics. 

“Biogenic” silica can be found in some plants and animals including sugarcane bagasse, the straw husk that is separated from sugarcane stalks during juicing. A significant enough percentage of biogenic silica is present in bagasse that, if the right process is applied, silica can be derived from the bagasse. 

The Clean Way 

Our new ingredient Biosilica™ is the result of a circular economy partnership led by Amyris, Aprinnova’s joint venture partnerto valorize waste streams from sugarcane fermentation. The effort is part of a partnership with the Universidade Católica Portuguesa – Escola Superior de Biotecnologia (“UCP”) in Porto/AICEP Consortium Project.  

Sugarcane juice is used for our fermentation process to sustainably manufacture cosmetic ingredients like Neossance™  Squalane and Hemisqualane. After the sugarcane is juiced, the bagasse is separated and burned for electricity to power facilities and fed into the local energy grid. This results in large amounts of ashes, some of which can be used to fertilize the soil, but many of which are discarded. Our research program analyzed this model and successfully identified and developed ways to create silica from these ashes to reduce waste.  

The first step is to filter the sugarcane ashes to remove impurities followed by a filtration process. Next, the ashes are heated and dried to further purify the silica.  

The result is a new ingredient, designed to meet performance criteria like oil absorption, mattification and smoothing effects, that can be used in pressed powders, liquid foundations, lipsticks, creams, lotions, and other applications.  

In consumer and clinical studies, Biosilica™ has shown equivalent or improved performance compared to typical industry benchmarks. It is also a premier replacement for microplastics.  

Join the circular economy now and get on the list to sample plant-derived silica. 

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