A range of non-ionic surface-active agents are produced by reacting fatty acids or alcohols with polyols and polyglycols.
Products based on polyethylene glycol esters exhibit excellent emulsifying properties for a range of oils. The solubility of these products in water increases with ethylene oxide content. Products containing low levels of ethylene oxide tend to form water in oil emulsions while products with higher ethylene oxide content tend to form oil in water emulsions. Usually a blend of two emulsifiers is used to obtain the correct hydrophilic lipophilic balance for a particular oil emulsion.
In general, polyethylene glycol esters are biodegradable, have low toxicity and are relatively low foaming. They are therefore useful as emulsifier in low foaming formulations and as replacements for nonyl phenol alcohol ethoxylates.