Surfactants are widely used in households, industrial purposes, and also in the food industry. The simple synonym of the surfactant is a surface-active agent. Basically, it is a substance which often also called as detergent. The property of surfactants is when they get mixed with water forms foaming substance. Its main work is to reduce its surface tension. Surfactants aka the amphiphilic molecule have absorbing nature and get classified based on charge in its head and tail group. Either they make a pair of oil-water or air-water which we are going to discuss in the blog later. It has multiple uses like cleansing material, insecticides, fungicides, and much more.
More than anything now surfactants are surfacing in markets because of its cleansing and hygiene property. People are looking for non-toxic surfactants because they are putting their safety and hygiene first. And looking for non-toxic surfactant which does not have any harmful effect seems rational. Not just this, people are demanding natural surfactants. The reason for switching towards natural and non-toxic surfactant are its properties. Many research conducted earlier had stated that surfactant has a harmful effect that can cause bacterial infection, cancer, etc among human beings. Not to forget, exposure to surfactants is also damaging to the environment.
On the other hand, a non-toxic surfactant which is also known as a natural surfactant consists of natural sources abundant with properties that won’t harm us. Prior surfactants were synthetically made which has some harmful effects like irritation and itching.
Types of Surfactant
Based on its properties, surfactants are categorized into four types which are as follows:
- Anionic surfactant
- Cationic surfactant
- Nonionic surfactant
- Zwitterionic surfactant
So, the anionic surfactant has repulsive nature and that’s why it is preferred for cleaning properties. Anionic surfactants are widely used as detergents and shampoos. Contrary to this, the nonionic surfactant has disjointing pressure which makes it skin-friendly but somehow lacks in a cleansing property. It is basically used as a wetting agent and also preferred in the food industry.
Whereas cationic surfactant are expensive and used as softeners in the textile industry and also used as anti-static additives. Moreover, zwitterionic surfactant widely used in cosmetics and way much expensive than all three.
Now, let’s understand how surfactants work in detail.
How does it work?
As you know it has amphiphilic nature, when they get mixed with air form hydrophobic interface and when get mixed with water form hydrogen sulfide scavengers.
So, the actual purpose of the surfactant is to minimize the surface and interfacial tension and preserve the interface. Just because of this only laundry is a cakewalk to all of us and our favorite food products like ice cream and mayonnaise exist. For better understanding, let’s take an example of the air-water interface, water molecules have a powerful cohesive force which eventually makes surface tension of water very high. The role of the surfactant is to lower the surface tension by breaking these interactions. Actually, the intermolecular force between the water-water molecule is higher than the surfactant- water molecule and that helps in lowering the surface tension.
So, We hope all your doubts about surfactants must be clear in this piece of writing.