Biosurfactants are microbial metabolites.
These molecules have both a water-loving hydrophilic part, which is often a sugar or peptide, and an oil-loving hydrophobic tail.
Like synthetic or conventional surfactants, they reduce the surface tension of liquids.
Biosurfactants also easily accumulate at the interface of different phases and reduce interfacial tension.
Synthetic surfactants are made from petrochemical precursors that are finite. Thus a most attractive aspect of biosurfactants is that they can be made sustainably from plant-based materials, which serve as food for the biosurfactant-producing microbes.
Biosurfactants also have low toxicity, especially to aquatic species, and good biodegradability.
These characteristics make biosurfactants a truly green class of molecules fit to serve our 21st century, of increasing global environmental consciousness.
Function & Performance
Stemming largely from their tension-altering properties, biosurfactants have diverse industrial and commercial uses. These include as agents in enhanced oil recovery (EOR), flotation processes, detergent formulations, bioremediation, germicides, and cosmetic and medical compositions.
Biosurfactants show comparable performance as many types synthetic surfactants. Sometimes they show superior performance, depending on application.