Author(s): Singh A, Van Hamme JD, Ward OP
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Abstract Surfactants are amphiphilic compounds which can reduce surface and interfacial tensions by accumulating at the interface of immiscible fluids and increase the solubility, mobility, bioavailability and subsequent biodegradation of hydrophobic or insoluble organic compounds. Chemically synthesized surfactants are commonly used in the petroleum, food and pharmaceutical industries as emulsifiers and wetting agents. Biosurfactants produced by some microorganisms are becoming important biotechnology products for industrial and medical applications due to their specific modes of action, low toxicity, relative ease of preparation and widespread applicability. They can be used as emulsifiers, de-emulsifiers, wetting and foaming agents, functional food ingredients and as detergents in petroleum, petrochemicals, environmental management, agrochemicals, foods and beverages, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, and in the mining and metallurgical industries. Addition of a surfactant of chemical or biological origin accelerates or sometimes inhibits the bioremediation of pollutants. Surfactants also play an important role in enhanced oil recovery by increasing the apparent solubility of petroleum components and effectively reducing the interfacial tensions of oil and water in situ. However, the effects of surfactants on bioremediation cannot be predicted in the absence of empirical evidence because surfactants sometimes stimulate bioremediation and sometimes inhibit it. For medical applications, biosurfactants are useful as antimicrobial agents and immunomodulatory molecules. Beneficial applications of chemical surfactants and biosurfactants in various industries are discussed in this review.
This article was published in Biotechnol Adv
and referenced in Journal of Petroleum & Environmental Biotechnology