The science of car care

Valvoline’s Hida Hasinovic took a shine to auto products and breakthroughs followed

Here’s quite a mix of ingredients: Boredom, a war, a new country and language, research into surfactants and emulsions, a side trip into pharmaceuticals, a Greek god, nanotechnology and car care products.

Hida Hasinovic has mixed it all together and the result is ground-breaking research, a basketful of patents and a lot of shiny vehicles on the road.

“I want to address pain points for customers. I want to solve the issues,” she says. “Work in this type of innovation, this type of chemistry, I feel almost privileged to do that on a daily basis.”

After arriving in the U.S. (see article to right), she began working with Dr. Stig Friberg on Janus emulsions as part of her doctoral studies. Named after the two-faced Greek god, Janus emulsions are made up of nanoparticles – objects tinier than the eye can see, but capable of a lot of impact – that are unique in that they have two or more distinct physical properties on their surface, enabling different chemistries to be delivered by one carrier. Producing them, however, was cumbersome.

(Emulsions systems are one of the most widely used formulation tools across a multitude of industrial applications. In spite of extensive literature, they are not completely understood.)

Mixing oil and water

Hasinovic, now a senior team leader for Valvoline, discovered a way to produce large quantities of Janus emulsions in one step. She was working to combine vegetable oil, silicone oil, a surfactant and water – ingredients that can be used in car wax. The significance of the work earned her, Friberg and a colleague, Dr. Guo Bong, a spot on the cover of the prestigious Journal of Colloid and Interface Science.

“We were so excited because those guys recognized our research immediately,” she recalls, referring to the journal’s editors.

The breakthrough was remarkable and deserved to be heralded, says David Turcotte, technical director for Valvoline.

At the lab during Mole Day activities

“She characterized a completely new kind of emulsion. It speaks to using a minimal amount of surfactant to create a very, very dense emulsion. For example, in remediation of oil spills, you can use a minimum amount of surfactant to clean up a maximum amount of oil,” he says.

“But it has other applications: shampoo, cleaners, drug delivery, corrosion inhibition, car care and waxes,” he explains. “It’s a fantastic thing. I don’t know if there has ever been a better piece of science done at Ashland.”

Her work with Janus emulsions led to further study of nanoparticles, a burgeoning area of scientific research due to a wide variety of potential applications.

The pain of waxing a car

Among the problems in using paste wax to shine a car are the physical effort required and the white residue left behind as a powder or in seams and joints.

“I hate it myself, even though I don’t use it ever again,” Hasinovic says of paste wax. “I was thinking about the advantage – I can use nano-sized soft colloids (liquids that won't mix), which would be a nanoemulsion, and provide a clear, streak-free finish, unlike those conventional milky, hard-to-buff wax finishes with the residue.”

The result was Eagle One™ Superior NanoWax, a spray that can fill microscopic scratches with less tough polishing and nothing left behind.

“She is very passionate, very dedicated,” says Rob McCarter, trade marketing manager for Eagle One. “She does a lot of extensive work to ensure that Eagle One stays above the competition in innovation.

"To Hida, who had the courage to leave her country, the strength to begin a new life and the intellectual capacity to become a success." 
inscription by Dr. Friberg in "Food Emulsions" 

“Today we have three products that have nanotechnology. It really comes out in the products. They are just superior products that perform,” he adds. “People can wax their car anytime – in the sun, in the shade – which is really important to them.”

Finding a way to say yes

Hasinovic’s passion runs green, too.

“I follow any green movement in industry,” she says. “Besides making great products, I like them to be environmentally friendly and you can make it happen.

“Green is here to stay … and my marketing guys, they have a wonderful interest.”

Turcotte agrees.

“The thing that strikes me about Hida is her knowledge of chemistry,” he points out. “She always has a focus on doing things in a green way, trying to find things that are biodegradable. It’s not only performance, it’s thinking about environmental fate and taking things a bit farther.”

Meet Hida Hasinovic

The war that tore through Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 1990s brought Hida Hasinovic (pronounced HEE-da hass-IN-o-vich) to the tiny town of Massena, N.Y., near the border with Canada. A brother, who had been a prisoner of war, had been resettled there earlier as a refugee.

Separated from her parents by the war, divorced and raising a daughter, Mirela, on her own, she connected with her brother through the International Red Cross.

“I could speak zero English at the time,” she says. “I saw, like everyone else, this country of opportunities. If you work hard, you can be successful.”

Before the war, she had earned a degree in chemistry and biology (other classes were “boring”), then taught for 14 years. After emigrating, then learning English, she earned a scholarship to Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., where she earned her master’s degree and later a doctorate for Janus emulsion research studies.

Her advisor was Dr. Stig Friberg, author of more than 500 scientific publications, book chapters and multiple books. The professor is a world-renowned expert in emulsions, surfactants, foams, nanoemulsions and much more. 

Just three months after arriving in the U.S., she was working in Friberg's lab, a relationship that would lead to ground-breaking developments. But first Hasinovic spent a year in pharmaceutical research on topical skin formulations in Birmingham, Ala. She then joined Ashland, first with Eagle One in Carlsbad, Calif., then moving to the Valvoline research center in Lexington, Ky.

“After I got to learn some English, I said, ‘Gosh, this research, it’s so exciting,’” she recalls. “I was seeing the opportunity you have when you open the door for multiple, major industrial applications.

”I am so excited to be in the field," she says. "There are multi-billion-dollar global opportunities in food, pharmaceutical, personal care and car care applications."

The jovial Hasinovic describes herself as a “journal jerk,” someone always reading scientific publications. She does find time for hiking and loves traveling and cooking. “You open the refrigerator, see three, four ingredients and you innovate immediately,” she says.

With her daughter Mirela in San Francisco

Honors and awards

  • Publications and patents award, 2012
  • Special recognition for outstanding performance, 2010
  • Valvoline "V" Award for outstanding achievement, 2007
  • Chairman's Award for nanotechnology in Eagle One products, 2006

Professional affiliations

  • American Chemical Society

Patents and Publications (examples)

  • "Some colloidal fundamentals in oil spill remediation: The water/surfactant/hydrocarbon combination," with Stig Friberg and Peter Belobrov, Chapter 12, Oil Spill Remediation, Wiley, 2014.
  • “Janus emulsion drops: Equillibrium calculations,” with Friberg, Ildyko Kovach and Joachim Koetz, Journal of Science Dispersion Technology, Nov. 14, 2013.
  • “Nano gel wax,” with Gefei Wu, US Patent 7,976,624, July 12, 2011.
  • “A one-step process to a Janus emulsion,” with Friberg and Guo Rong, Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, Oct. 8, 2010.
  • “Wax composition for application to wet surfaces,” with Elsie Jordan, US Patent No. 7,381,249, June 3, 2008.