Application of biosurfactants, rhamnolipid, and surfactin, for enhanced biodegradation of diesel-contaminated water and soil

Liang Ming Whang, Pao Wen G. Liu, Chih Chung Ma, Sheng Shung Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

201 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigated potential application of two biosurfactants, surfactin (SF) and rhamnolipid (RL), for enhanced biodegradation of diesel-contaminated water and soil with a series of bench-scale experiments. The rhamnolipid used in this study, a commonly isolated glycolipid biosurfactant, was produced by Pseudomonas aeruginosa J4, while the surfactin, a lipoprotein type biosurfactant, was produced by Bacillus subtilis ATCC 21332. Both biosurfactants were able to reduce surface tension to less than 30 dynes/cm from 72 dynes/cm with critical micelle concentration (CMC) values of 45 and 50 mg/L for surfactin and rhamnolipid, respectively. In addition, the results of diesel dissolution experiments also demonstrated their ability in increasing diesel solubility with increased biosurfactant addition. In diesel/water batch experiments, an addition of 40 mg/L of surfactin significantly enhanced biomass growth (2500 mg VSS/L) as well as increased diesel biodegradation percentage (94%), compared to batch experiments with no surfactin addition (1000 mg VSS/L and 40% biodegradation percentage). Addition of surfactin more than 40 mg/L, however, decreased both biomass growth and diesel biodegradation efficiency, with a worse diesel biodegradation percentage (0%) at 400 mg/L of SF addition. Similar trends were also observed for both specific rate constants of biomass growth and diesel degradation, as surfactin addition increased from 0 to 400 mg/L. Addition of rhamnolipid to diesel/water systems from 0 to 80 mg/L substantially increased biomass growth and diesel biodegradation percentage from 1000 to 2500 mg VSS/L and 40 to 100%, respectively. Rhamnolipid addition at a concentration of 160 mg/L provided similar results to those of an 80 mg/L addition. Finally, potential application of surfactin and rhamnolipid in stimulating indigenous microorganisms for enhanced bioremediation of diesel-contaminated soil was also examined. The results confirmed their enhancing capability on both efficiency and rate of diesel biodegradation in diesel/soil systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-163
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Feb 28

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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