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Effect of synthetic surfactants on the environment and the potential for substitution by biosurfactants

journal contribution
posted on 06.01.2021, 14:19 by Phillip Johnson, Anna Trybala, Victor Starov, Valerie Pinfield
The environmental impacts of the use of synthetic surfactants are discussed in this work such as their high levels of toxicity and low biodegradability. These materials destroy aquatic microbial populations, damage fish and other aquatic life, and reduce photochemical energy conversion efficiency of plants as well as adversely affecting waste-water treatment processes. With global usage of surfactants being over 15 million tonnes annually, and an estimated 60% of surfactant ending up in the aquatic environment, there is an urgent need for alternatives with lower adverse environmental effects; this review explores biosurfactants as potential alternatives. The sources and natural function of biosurfactants are presented, together with their advantages compared with their synthetic counterparts, including their low toxicity and biodegradability. Their comparable effectiveness as surfactants has been demonstrated by surface tension reduction, achieved at much lower critical micelle concentrations that those of synthetic surfactants. The limitations and challenges for the use of biosurfactants are discussed, particularly low production yields; such limitations must be addressed before wide range industrial use of biosurfactants can be achieved. Although there has been focus on achieving greater production yields, a remaining issue is the lack of research into the use of biosurfactants in a greater range of industrial and consumer applications to demonstrate their efficacy and identify candidate biosurfactants for production. This review highlights such research as deserving of further investigation, alongside the ongoing work to optimize the production process.

Funding

This research was supported by MAP EVAPORATION project, European Space Agency, Proctor & Gamble, Brussels and NanoPaint, EU Marie Curie project.

History

School

  • Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering

Department

  • Chemical Engineering

Published in

Advances in Colloid and Interface Science

Volume

288

Publisher

Elsevier

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Rights holder

© Elsevier

Publisher statement

This paper was accepted for publication in the journal Advances in Colloid and Interface Science and the definitive published version is available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cis.2020.102340.

Acceptance date

10/12/2020

Publication date

2020-12-13

Copyright date

2020

ISSN

0001-8686

eISSN

1873-3727

Language

en

Depositor

Dr Valerie Pinfield. Deposit date: 4 January 2021

Article number

102340

Exports

Loughborough Publications

Categories

Exports