Introduction to Biosurfactants


Biosurfactant applications

Surfactant is short for SURFace ACTive AgeNT, which are amphiphilic molecules that reduce the surface tension of a liquid, enabling them to act as detergents, wetting agents, emulsifiers, foaming agents, or dispersants. Over 20 million tonnes of surfactants are produced every year, but only 4% are fully biobased and less than 0.5% are produced biologically (e.g. plant extraction, biocatalysis or microbial fermentation). Surfactants are used in almost every industry, from cleaning products to high value pharmaceutical applications. Biosurfactants have recently attracted strong attention from surfactant producers because the consumer demand for greener products has gone mainstream. Particularly the cosmetic and personal care industry are now serious about making the switch to bio-based ingredients

AmphiStar’s Biosurfactant Technology Platform

AmphiStar’s current biosurfactant technology platform is the result of over 10 years integrated strain and process development. It is mainly based on the highly productive yeast organism Starmerella bombicola (isolated from bumblebee honey), and enables us to produce over 25 specific variants of well characterised glycolipid biosurfactants. The technology has been demonstrated at 15 m³ scale, generating high purity products for application tests. 

AmphiStar’s technology base is protected by a patent portfolio and process know-how which is further developed and broadened by incorporating other technologies such as enzymatic and chemical derivatisation of biosurfactants.

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Our production processes are based on industrial biotechnology and use local, sustainable, renewable raw materials. Microbial fermentation is a clean production technology that uses mild conditions and is safe for people and for the environment. Both conventional first-generation (1G) biomass feedstocks (e.g. glucose and fatty acids derived from regionally sourced plant oil) and second generation (2G) biomass feedstocks (e.g. crude glycerine and food waste) can be used.

The use of 1G renewable substrates is a major factor in the overall environmental impact of the produced biosurfactants. This impact is generated through the environmental impact of the agricultural processes (fertilization, water use, resources used) to produce these biomass feedstocks. The use of side- and or waste streams for biosurfactant production is thus of particular interest when sustainability is the goal, which is why AmphiStar focuses on using these streams. These developments are also fully in line with the current societal goal towards a circular economy, leading to new value chains that span across several sectors.