What surfactants are?
Surfactants (superficially active agents) are the substances having the ability to change the properties of the liquid’s surface, in which they are dissolved. They cumulate on the border of two phases and they decrease the pressure between them. They also have the ability to decrease the superficial pressure between air and the liquid or between liquids which do not mix with water (e.g. grease, organic dissolvent, petroleum products). The visible effect of working surfactants might be the formation of emulsion or foam.
What are surfactants for?
Due to its unusual properties surfactants can be widely used in many sectors. They are the ingredient of cleaning and washing agents, cosmetics, plant protection agents, medicines and even groceries (e.g. beverages). They are also used in the processing of paper waste, industrial treatment of textiles, paints and ceramic products. There are even known properties of surfactants anti - cancer and anti-microbial.
On top of this, surfactants are used in automotive, construction and mining industries. Surfactants are used e.g. to clean petrol tankers and ships and also to minimise the damages caused by spillage of naphtha or petroleum products. What is also interesting it is also added to raw naphtha – in order to increase the efficiency of yield and to improve the flow of petrol in the pipelines.
Superficially active agents play a significant role in the textile industry. They are used as helping agents in the process of dyeing, they work in a levelling manner – they prevent the creation of stains. They also are used in the preparatory and finishing processes, mainly to wash the textile materials.
Why are surfactants so important?
Surfactants help to clean, prepare and process numerous products, which are indispensible for people in everyday life. The quality of life and health depend, in a big extent, on the accessibility and quality used surfactants.
How are surfactants made?
The majority of the surfactants are produced chemically. They are made in the chemical processing of petroleum products and animal or plant fat. However on the market organic products are starting to play a more significant role – so called biosurfactants. Biosurfactants are synthesised by microorganisms, such as bacteria or fungi on an industrial scale. They can be also extracted as a result of enzymatic reaction through the biotransformational method. They are also obtained directly from some products deriving from plants.
Why the significance of biosurfactants is increasing?
In view of the huge promulgation of the usage of superficially active agents they have a significant impact on the ecosystem. Many of the synthesised surfactants create a threat for the water environment – they have toxic properties and they cumulate in the environment. From this point of view it is very important to use surfactants which are as eco-friendly as possible. This issue has been systematised on the level of European Union through the introduction of appropriate legal regulations, which define the requirements concerning the degree of biodegradability of detergents. Superficially active agents available on the market, which are produced by chemical reactions very often, struggle to meet those criteria or their biodegradability is on the lowest required level which is 80%. This problem does not concern the substances obtained through biosynthesis (biosurfactants), which are fully and quickly putrefied in the environment.
How can we protect ourselves from the negative effects of surfactants??
While choosing everyday products it is worthwhile to take into consideration their ingredients. It is the best when producing surfactantsthat natural sources were used. Then we can be certain that those products are ecofriendly and do not pose a threat for human life.
Why biosurfactants are not yet commonly accessible?
The main obstacle to use biosurfactants is the high cost of their production. Boruta-Zachem company has the indispensable technology to create the biosurfactants and is working on starting off production on industrial scale.