An international team of researchers has identified a new molecule that could revolutionize the biosurfactant market. They are used in cleaning products, paints, cosmetics, food, and even medicines.
Biosurfactants are surfactants synthesized from oil and are the main active ingredient in soaps, detergents and shampoos. Biosurfactants produced by bacteria are safer and can replace synthetic surfactants.
Rhamnolipid molecules are some of the safest surfactants known and are particularly attractive due to their biodegradability, minimal toxicity and their ability to be obtained from industrial waste. But there’s a problem. They are made using Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a pathogenic bacteria that is dangerous to humans.
The molecules produced by these bacteria usually mix with other compounds or virulence factors, making them difficult to use.
To solve this problem, scientists have identified molecules that resemble rhamnolipids in Pantoea ananatis, a non-pathogenic bacterium. The researchers then chemically synthesized these molecules, called ananatosides, in the laboratory. This significantly increases the likelihood that their production will be established on a much larger scale than using bacteria. The industry is already showing interest in these promising new biosurfactants, scientists say.