Alliance Biosurfactants: Functionally optimized biosurfactants based on regionally available raw materials through optimized biotechnological processes – Phase 2

The aim of the alliance is to economically produce functionally optimized biosurfactants from domestic renewable raw and residual materials using biotechnological methods. The production and purification of such biosurfactants are to be optimized to enable their use in the application areas detergents and cleaning agents, cosmetics, bioremediation, crop protection and food as an alternative to chemically synthesized surfactants.


Innovation Alliance Functionally Optimized Biosurfactants Phase 2

Samples of different cellobiose- and mannosylerythritol lipid variants ready for shipment.
© Fraunhofer IGB
Samples of different cellobiose- and mannosylerythritol lipid variants ready for shipment.

The Biosurfactants Innovation Alliance is the first strategic alliance of renowned companies and research institutions in Germany aiming at finding sustainable and scalable alternatives to chemically synthesized surfactants, which have so far been produced from fossil raw materials. Therefore, we are examining and developing the process engineering production of biosurfactants in the alliance using biotechnological methods based on domestic renewable raw materials and residues. Together with our project partners, we systematically investigate their potential applications – for example, as components of detergents and cleaning agents, in cosmetics, bioremediation, crop protection and food.


Comprehensive characterization of biosurfactants

During the first funding phase (2018 – 2020), the provision of regionally available sugar-, fat- and oil-containing raw materials was considered. A wide variety of microorganisms for the production of different biosurfactant classes were investigated, and promising candidates for subsequent process development on a laboratory scale were selected and investigated in terms of application technology.


Focus on process technology and scale-up

In the second phase of the project (2021 – 2024), greater emphasis will be placed on the implementation of scale-up. Here, the fermentation and purification processes are to be further developed in terms of robust, controllable processes and simplified purification methods to enable gradual scaling up to the next orders of magnitude.

Looking at the purification route, complex purification methods often represent the largest cost driver. Here, existing and innovative technologies need to be investigated, linked and optimized so that the number of steps for biosurfactant purification is minimized. The project partners are devoting themselves to this holistic process-related risk and cost minimization approach in the second phase of the project.

By providing larger sample quantities, the second phase will further provide detailed answers to open questions about the performance profiles of individual application areas. This is only possible with larger sample quantities from the 100-gram scale upwards, which goes hand in hand with an upscaling of the fermentation and downstream process.


Verification of safety-relevant properties

In addition, studies are needed to verify the safety profile for the environment and humans. In the second project phase, hazard analyses will therefore be carried out and safety data sheets prepared in order to identify necessary investigations for individual biosurfactants in the specific areas of application. This is particularly necessary because the criteria (regulations, guidelines) may differ fundamentally depending on the area of application, whether for use in cosmetics, food or cleaning agents, for instance.

Video: Biosurfactants from renewable raw materials

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Project information

Project title

Allianz Biotenside – Funktionsoptimierte Biotenside auf Basis von regional verfügbaren Rohstoffen durch optimierte biotechnologische Verfahren – Phase 2


Duration (Phase 2)

July 2021 – June 2024


Project partners


  • BASF SE, Ludwigshafen
  • DALLI-WERKE GmbH & Co. KG, Stolberg (Coordination)
  • Festo AG & Co. KG, Esslingen
  • Henkel AG & Co. KGaA, Düsseldorf
  • Hermetia Baruth GmbH, Baruth/Mark Brandenburg
  • ifm electronic GmbH, Tettnang
  • Metrohm Prozessanalytik GmbH & Co. KG, Filderstadt
  • MyBiotech GmbH, Überherrn
  • Oelheld GmbH, Stuttgart
  • Dr. Richard Sthamer GmbH & Co. KG, Hamburg

Research institutions

  • Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB, Stuttgart (Coordination)
  • Karlsruher Institute of Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe
  • Steinbeis-Transferzentrum (STZ) Smart Polymer Solutions (SPS)
    Hochschule Reutlingen/Fakultät Angewandte Chemie
  • University of Hohenheim, Bioprocess Engineering, Stuttgart
  • University of Stuttgart, Institute for Acoustics and Building Physics IABP
  • University of Stuttgart, Institute of Interfacial Process Engineering and Plasma Technology IGVP


We would like to thank the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for funding the "Biosurfactants Alliance", promotional reference: 031B0469M (Phase 1) and 031B1059M (Phase 2), within the "Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Initiative" program.

Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung.


[1] Beck A, Zibek S (2020) Mannosylerythritollipide — mikrobielle Biotenside aus dem Bioreaktor. BIOspektrum 26(1):100-102

[2] Beck A, Haitz F, Grunwald S, Preuss L, Rupp S, Zibek S (2019) Influence of microorganism and plant oils on the structure of mannosylerythritol lipid (MEL) biosurfactants revealed by a novel thin layer chromatography mass spectrometry method. Journal of Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology.

[3] Beck A, Zibek S (2020) Growth behaviour of selected Ustilaginaceae fungi used for mannosylerythritol lipid (MEL) biosurfactant production – evaluation of a defined culture medium. Frontiers in Biotechnology and Bioengineering

[3] Oraby A, Werner N, Sungur Z, Zibek S (2020) Factors affecting the synthesis of cellobiose lipids by Sporisorium scitamineum. Frontiers in Biotechnology and Bioengineering


Beck, A., Vogt, F., Hagele, L., Rupp, S., and Zibek, S. (2022). Optimization and Kinetic Modeling of a Fed-Batch Fermentation for Mannosylerythritol Lipids (MEL) Production With Moesziomyces aphidis. Front Bioeng Biotechnol 10, 913362.