Surfactants are used for may applications, for example in medicines, cosmetics, cleaning agents, food, cattle feed, agricultural chemicals and paints. Traditionally they were produced from petrochemical sources, but the focus shifts more and more towards oleochemicals from vegetable raw materials. However, these are limited renewable and still require environmentally harmful chemical processes. Fully biobased produced biosurfactants are an exception. About 5% of these biosurfactants are microbial surfactants. These are produced by biological processes by organisms such as yeasts and bacteria from renewable sources such as vegetable oil, sugars and even waste streams. They are less environmentally harmful and have versatile application possibilities.
Screening and scale-up
In the Applisurf project, biosurfactants are developed through a combination of genetic modification, fermentation and green chemistry. The ‘new-to-market’ biosurfactants will be screened for industrially relevant properties (foaming, emulsifying, wetting, gelling, antimicrobial action, etc.). Production is scaled up from the most optimal strains, so that a number of samples become available that the industrial partners involved can test further in their own laboratories. A model is also being developed to be able to predict the properties of compounds not included in the screen.
To foster input and feedback from the industry, the project partners are looking for companies that want to be involved in the user group of this innovation project. They can contribute in a passive way as members of the advisory committee and are informed first of the research results. Moreover, they can be more actively involved in the case and receive examples of the most promising substances for their market, for internal evaluation. The advisory committee is open to all interested companies.
Research partners in this project are: Ghent University (Faculty of Bioscience Engineering InBio.be, Faculty of Green Chemistry and Technology SynBioc and Honeybee Valley, focused on reducing bee mortality), Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant, Flanders Materials Centre FLAMAC, the Radius research group at Thomas More College, Campus Geel. The project will be coordinated by Flanders Biobased Valley.