There is world wide concern about the liberation of hydrocarbons in the environment, both from industrial activities and from accidental spills of oil and oilrelated compounds. Biosurfactants, which are natural emulsifiers of hydrocarbons, are produced by some bacteria, fungi and yeast. They are polymers, totally or partially extracellular, with an amphipathyc structure, which allows them to form micelles that accumulate at the interface between liquids of different polarities such as water and oil. This process is based upon the ability of biosurfactants to reduce surface tension, blocking the formation of hydrogen bridges and certain hydrophilic and hydrophobic interactions. The ability of biosurfactant production by five strains of Rhodococcus isolated from oil prospecting sites was evaluated. Surface tension measurement and emulsifying index were used to quantify biosurfactant production. The influence of environmental conditions was also investigated - pH, temperature, medium composition, and type of carbon source - on cell growth and biosurfactant production. Strain AC 239 was shown to be a potential producer, attaining 63% of emulsifying index for a Diesel-water binary system. It could be used, either directly on oil spills in contained environments, or for the biotechnological production of biosurfactant.
biosurfactant; hydrocarbon degradation; Rhodococcus sp