Advanced materials from microbial fermentation: the case of glycolipids and nanocellulose
Glucosomes obtained from branched C22 sophorolipids. Reproduced from, Baccile N. et al., ChemistryOpen, 2017, 6, p. 526.
Green chemistry is a recent discipline ruled by twelve founding principles, which include, among others, atom economy, the prevention of pollution via environmentally friendly chemical synthesis methods, such as, for example, the choice of an aqueous medium over organic solvents, but also the development of chemicals and materials derived from plant biomass. In this context, microbial synthesis is a tool to supplant, in some notable cases, syntheses by a standard organic chemistry approach. More recently, attention has begun to be given to the microbial synthesis of polymeric sugars, such as dextran or cellulose, or lipids, such as amphiphilic glycolipids.
Although the microbial production of glycosylated compounds can be traced back by several decades, the development of green chemistry is encouraging teams of multidisciplinary researchers to focus on production, diversification, and applications of this class of compounds, thus going beyond the community of researchers in microbiology, historically interested in the development of fermentation products from microorganisms.
This article develops the above-mentioned theme by focusing on nanocellulose, representing an important glycosylated polymer, and on biosurfactants, in regards of the glycosylated lipids. The choice of these two systems is justified by the strong development of nanocellulose-based materials but also by the need to replace in part the “conventional” surfactants, a significant source of CO2 emissions worldwide. The main classes of molecules, the classical methods of synthesis, their properties and some examples of notorious applications are presented.