Amino acid-based surfactants - Do they deserve more attention?
The 20 standard amino acids (together with a few more that are not used in the biosynthesis of proteins) constitute a versatile tool box for synthesis of surfactants. Anionic, cationic and zwitterionic amphiphiles can be prepared and surfactants with several functional groups can be obtained by the proper choice of starting amino acid. This review gives examples of procedures used for preparation and discusses important physicochemical properties of the amphiphiles and how these can be taken advantage of for various applications. Micelles with a chiral surface can be obtained by self-assembly of enantiomerically pure surfactants and such supramolecular chirality can be utilized for asymmetric organic synthesis and for preparation of mesoporous materials with chiral pores. Surfactants based on amino acids with two carboxyl groups are effective chelating agents and can be used as collectors in mineral ore flotation. A surfactant based on cysteine readily oxidizes into the corresponding cystine compound, which can be regarded as a gemini surfactant. The facile and reversible cysteine-cystine transformation has been taken advantage of in the design of a switchable surfactant. A very attractive aspect of surfactants based on amino acids is that the polar head-group is entirely natural and that the linkage to the hydrophobic tail, which is often an ester or an amide bond, is easily cleaved. The rate of degradation can be tailored by the structure of the amphiphile. The ester linkage in betaine ester surfactants is particularly susceptible to alkaline hydrolysis and this surfactant type can be used as a biocide with short-lived action. This paper is not intended as a full review on the topic. Instead it highlights concepts that are unique to amino acid-based surfactants and that we believe can have practical implications.
Amino acid-based surfactants
Dicarboxylic amino acids