Ibrahim M. Banat & Andrea Franzetti & Isabella Gandolfi & Giuseppina Bestetti & Maria G. Martinotti & Letizia Fracchia & Thomas J. Smyth & Roger Marchant
Microorganisms synthesise a wide range of surface-active compounds (SAC), generally called biosurfactants. These compounds are mainly classified according to their molecular weight, physico-chemical properties and mode of action. The low-molecular-weight SACs or biosurfactants reduce the surface tension at the air/water interfaces and the interfacial tension at oil/water interfaces, whereas the high-molecular-weight SACs, also called bioemulsifiers, are more effective in stabilising oil-in-water emulsions. Biosurfactants are attracting much interest due to their potential advantages over their synthetic counterparts in many fields spanning environmental, food, biomedical, and other industrial applications. Their large-scale application and production, however, are currently limited by the high cost of production and by limited understanding of their interactions with cells and with the abiotic environment. In this paper, we review the current knowledge and the latest advances in biosurfactant applications and the biotechnological strategies being developed for improving production processes and future potential.