Biomimetic Amphiphiles: Properties and Potential Uses
S.K. Mehta, Shweta Sharma, Neena Mehta and Swaranjit Singh Cameotra
Surfactants are the amphiphilic molecules that tend to alter the interfacial and surface tension. The fundamental property related to the structure of surfactant molecules is their self‑aggregation resulting in the formation of association colloids. Apart from the packing of these molecules into closed structures, the structural network also results in formation of extended bilayers, which are thermodynamically stable and lead to existence of biological membranes and vesicles. From biological point of view the development of new knowledge and techniques in the area of vesicles, bilayers and multiplayer membranes and their polymerizable analogue provide new opportunities for research in the respective area. ‘Green Surfactants’ or the biologically compatible surfactants are in demand to replace some of the existing surfactants and thereby reduce the environmental impact, in general caused by classic surfactants. In this context, the term ‘natural surfactants or biosurfactants’ is often used to indicate the natural origin of the surfactant molecules. Most important aspect of biosurfactants is their environmental acceptability, because they are readily biodegradable and have low toxicity than synthetic surfactants. Some of the major applications of biosurfactants in pollution and environmental control are microbial enhanced oil recovery, hydrocarbon degradation, hexa‑chloro cyclohexane (HCH) degradation and heavy‑metal removal from contaminated soil. In this chapter, we tried to make a hierarchy from vital surfactant molecules toward understanding their behavioral aspects and application potential thereby ending into the higher class of broad spectrum ‘biosurfactants’. Pertaining to the budding promise offered by these molecules, the selection of the type and size of each structural moiety enables a delicate balance between surface activity and biological function and this represents the most effective approach of harnessing the power of molecular self‑assembly.