Gordonia amarae, a filamentous actinomycete, commonly found in foaming activated sludge wastewater treatment plants was investigated for its biosurfactant production capability. Soluble acetate and sparingly soluble hexadecane were used as carbon sources for G. amarae growth and biosurfactant production in laboratory scale batch reactors. The lowest surface tension (critical micelle concentration, CMC) of the cell-free culture broth was 55 dynes/cm when 1,900 mg/L acetate was used as the sole carbon source. The lowest surface tension was less than 40 dynes/cm when either 1% (v/v) hexadecane or a mixture of 1% (v/v) hexadecane and 0.5% (w/v) acetate was used as the carbon source. The maximum biomass concentration (the stationary phase) was achieved after 4 days when acetate was used along with hexadecane, whereas it took about 8 days to achieve the stationary phase with hexadecane alone. The maximum biosurfactant production was 3 × CMC with hexadecane as the sole carbon source, and it was 5 × CMC with the mixture of hexadecane and acetate. Longer term growth studies (∼ 35 days of culture growth) indicated that G. amarae produces biosurfactant in order to solubilize hexadecane, and that adding acetate improves its biosurfactant production by providing readily degradable substrate for initial biomass growth. This research confirms that the foaming problems in activated sludge containing G. amarae in the activated sludge are due to the biosurfactant production by G. amarae when hydrophobic substrates such as hexadecane are present.

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