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Green Sustainable Process for Chemical and Environmental Engineering and Science
2021, 31-51

Active metabolites and biosurfactants for utilization in environmental remediation and eco-restoration of polluted soils

Zaman Tahira, Muhammad Shahid Nazirb, Awais Ali Aslamb, Sadia Banoc, Zulfiqar Alia, Majid Niaz Akhtard, Kashuf Azame, Mohd Azmuddin Abdullahf

Department of Chemical Engineering, COMSATS University Islamabad (CUI), Lahore Campus, Lahore, Pakistan.


Soil contamination by the anthropogenic activities is posing serious threat to agricultural sector and living beings at large. Soil remediation and eco-restoration are inevitable to meet the growing demands for food and healthy ecosystem. Biosurfactants/microbial surfactants, the by-products of cell activities in a number of microorganisms, play important roles in restoring the balance of soil nutrients and microbial population for plant development. Biosurfactants possess unique properties such as low toxicity, high biodegradability, and effectiveness in extreme conditions for potential applications in oil recovery, food processing, environmental biodegradation, and biopharmaceuticals. The hydrophobic-hydrophilic features of the surfactant molecules could serve as emulsifier and chelate the pollutants and leach them out of the soil. However, the low product yield and high cost of recovery and purification have hampered the large-scale production. The focus of this chapter is to highlight the diverse applications, classification, and factors influencing the production of biosurfactants. The practical approaches for a more economically viable production utilizing agro-waste materials as low-cost substrates, and the optimization of the reaction conditions and selection of suitable microbes are discussed. The applications in environmental remediation and eco-restoration of the polluted soils are elaborated.

Keywords: Environmental pollutants, Soil contamination, Surface-active compounds, Biosurfactants, Microbial surfactants, Bioremediation, Bioemulsifiers, Heavy metal extraction, Eco-restoration.

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