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Ramnolipid: a sustainable alternative for the use of synthetic surfactants in the industry


Surfactants are an important class of chemical products largely used in many industrial sectors. Surfactants obtained from bacteria, also known as biosurfactants, show many advantages when compared to synthetic surfactants: high biodegradability, low toxicity and they can function in drastic temperature and pH conditions. Rhamnolipids (RHLs) are biosurfactants produced mainly by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, made of one (mono-rhamnolipid) or two ramnose molecules (di-rhamnolipids) linked between each other or one or two 3-hydroxy alkanoic acid molecules (3HAs). Due to the high production costs associated with inefficient purification and recovery processes, rhamnolipids are still not able to compete with chemical surfactants. Therefore, this project aims to identify production and purification methods with high productivity and economically viable on the large scale. Additionally, hydrolyzed rhamnolipis will be used as L-ramnose source, a sugar with a difficult natural extraction process and with high added value. On Phase 1 of this present project, results extremely promising regarding foam control in bioreactor culture were obtained. They allowed the end of the rhamnolipids production process without the need of interruptions or the addition of anti-foaming agents that have high costs and are not totally efficient. Furthermore, the most promising carbon source was identified between the different vegetal oils tested. Also, using only the broth free of cells, satisfactory superficial tension values were reached. This way, this product can be probably used, for example, in the environmental area, which does not require high pure products, eliminating the high cost of a purification process. With the application trials, it was possible to standardize the application tests and note that, even in low concentrations, the rhamnolipids produced using glycerol as carbon source showed an excellent foam formation capacity and increase the foam stability created by the anionic surfactant sodium lauryl sulfate. Additional data were obtained in the Phase 1 project which supported the processes improvement. (AU)

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