Effect of Sophorolipid n-Alkyl Ester Chain Length on Its Interfacial Properties at the Almond Oil-Water Interface

Amanda Koh, Robert J. Linhardt, Richard Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Sophorolipids (SLs), produced by Candida bombicola, are of interest as potential replacements for hazardous commercial surfactants. For the first time, a series of molecularly edited SLs with ethyl (EE), n-hexyl (HE), and n-decyl (DE) esters were evaluated at an oil (almond oil)-water interface for their ability to reduce interfacial tension (IFT) and generate stable emulsions. An increase in the n-alkyl ester chain length from ethyl to hexyl resulted in a maximum % decrease in the IFT from 86.1 to 95.3, respectively. Furthermore, the critical aggregation concentrations (CACs) decreased from 0.035 to 0.011 and 0.006 mg/mL as the ester chain length was increased from ethyl to n-hexyl and n-decyl, respectively. In contrast, the CAC of natural SL, composed of 50/50 acidic and LSL, is 0.142 mg/mL. Dynamic IFT analysis showed significant differences in diffusion coefficients for all SLs studied. Almond oil emulsions with up to 200:1 (by weight) oil/SL-DE were stable against oil separation for up to 1 week with average droplet sizes below 5 μm. Emulsions of almond oil with natural SLs showed consistent oil separation 24 h after emulsification. A unique connection between IFT and emulsification was found as SL-DE has both the lowest CAC and the best emulsification performance of all natural and modified SLs studied herein. This connection between CAC and emulsification may be generally applicable, providing a tool for the prediction of optimal surfactants in other oil-water interfacial applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5562-5572
Number of pages11
Issue number22
StatePublished - 7 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


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