Biocompatible surfactants derived from amino acids

A group of biocompatible cationic surfactants derived from the histidine, an amino acid, have been obtained. These surfactants are non-toxic and have antimicrobial activity. They could be used in food, cosmetic, biomedical and pharmaceutical applications.

Histidine surfactant hexagonal liquid crystal.Surfactants are one of the most versatile chemical compounds. Applied for many industrial uses, as a emulsifiers, moisturizers, detergents or solubilizers. As the conventional surfactants can have negative impact on the aquatic ecosystems, there is a growing demand for new environment-friendly surfactants obtained from green sources.

Scientists at the Instituto de Química Avanzada de Cataluña del CSIC have developed a group of biocompatible cationic surfactants derived from the histidina, an amino acid which is essential for animals and which can be found naturally in bacteria, fungi and plants.

The new surfactants have better enhanced surface properties than conventional ones, therefore its aggregation capacity is higher and a good emulsion can be obtained with only small quantities of them. 

Its production cost is higher than conventional surfactants. Nevertheless, as it is efficient in small amounts, it can be applied for value added products, such as cosmetic and pharmaceutical formulations. Besides, the compounds have a good antimicrobial and antifungal activity, therefore could be used as a emulsifying and preservative in food products.

Surfactants derived from amino acids are compounds of great interest due to their “natural” origin, multifunctional capabilities and safety profile.


Isabel Masip, Ph.D.
Institute for Advanced Chemistry
of Catalonia
Deputy Vice-Presidency for
Knowledge Transfer of CSIC
Tel: + 34 – 93 400 61 00
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.