Biosurfactants – The mountain gave birth to a mouse


Guido Bognolo
Scientific advisory board of H&PC Today – household and Personal Care today (TKS Publisher)

“Everybody makes mistakes”, said a porcupine stepping down from a brush. Mistakes I have made many, and tried to amend. But one haunts me bitterly: for a while, in the mid 1980ties, I was a passionate believer in biosurfactants. Surfactants synthesized by living organisms fascinated me, and I naively thought that man could do better than nature. My reasoning was: if natural evolution has produced wonderful species (albeit probably through haphazard genetic modifications over thousands of years) human ingenuity supported by a rational, scientific approach should do much better and in a blink of time. So far I have been proven wrong and faith has turned into disillusion. Disillusion leaves deep scars, and no matter how hard I try to be objective, inevitably a scent of skepticism will transpire from this column. But for the purpose of good order and clarity I should make an upfront distinction between “biobased” surfactants (i.e. those made from renewable and sustainable sources) and the man-made biosurfactants (henceforth I will simply refer to these as “biosurfactants”). This column deals with biosurfactants and highlights the reasons for their insignificant co ...