Rhamnolipid (biosurfactant) effects on cell aggregation and biodegradation of residual hexadecane under saturated flow conditions

David C. Herman, Yimin Zhang, Raina M. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


The objective of this research was to evaluate the effect of low concentrations of a rhamnolipid biosurfactant on the in situ biodegradation of hydrocarbon entrapped in a porous matrix. Experiments were performed with sand-packed columns under saturated flow conditions with hexadecane as a model hydrocarbon. Application of biosurfactant concentrations greater than the CMC (the concentration at which the surfactant molecules spontaneously farm micelles or vesicles [0.03 mM]) resulted primarily in the mobilization of hexadecane entrapped within the sand matrix. In contrast, application of biosurfactant concentrations less than the CMC enhanced the in situ mineralization of entrapped hexadecane; however, this effect was dependent on the choice of bacterial isolate. The two Pseudomonas isolates tested, R4 and ATCC 15524, were used because they exhibit different patterns of biodegradation of hexadecane, and they also differed in their physical response to rhamnolipid addition. ATCC 15524 cells formed extensive multicell aggregates in the presence of rhamnolipid while R4 cells were unaffected. This behavior did not affect the ability of the biosurfactant to enhance the biodegradation of hexadecane in well-mixed soil slurry systems but had a large affect on the extent of entrapped hexadecane biodegradation in the sand-packed-column system that was used in this study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3622-3627
Number of pages6
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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