Stability constants for the complexation of various metals with a rhamnolipid biosurfactant

F. J. Ochoa-Loza, J. F. Artiola, R. M. Maier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

172 Scopus citations


The presence of toxic metals in natural environments presents a potential health hazard for humans. Metal contaminants in these environments are usually tightly bound to colloidal particles and organic matter. This represents a major constraint to their removal using currently available in situ remediation technologies. One technique that has shown potential for facilitated metal removal from soil is treatment with an anionic microbial surfactant, rhamnolipid. Successful application of rhamnolipid in metal removal requires knowledge of the rhamnolipid-metal complexation reaction. Therefore, our objective was to evaluate the biosurfactant complexation affinity for the most common natural soil and water cations and for various metal contaminants. The conditional stability constant (log K) for each of these metals was determined using an ion-exchange resin technique. Results show the measured stability constants follow the order (from strongest to weakest):Al3+ > Cu2+ > Pb2+ > Cd2+ > Zn2+ > Fe3+ > Hg2+ > Ca2+ > Co2+ > Ni2+ > Mn2+> Mg2+ > K+. These data indicate that rhamnolipid will preferentially complex metal contaminants such as lead, cadmium, and mercury in the presence of common soil or water cations. The measured rhamnolipid-metal stability constants were found in most cases to be similar or higher than conditional stability constants reported in the literature for metal complexation with acetic acid, oxalic acid, citric acid, and fulvic acids. These results help delineate the conditions under which rhamnolipid may be successfully applied as a remediation agent in the removal of metal contaminants from soil, as well as surface waters, ground water, and wastestreams.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)479-485
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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