More Possible Uses: Surfactants
Several derivatives of inulin, the poorly water-soluble fructan, have been developed as detergents and surfactants. Advantages of a fructan-based detergent include absence of phosphate, biodegradability and the fact that the feedstock is from a renewable source. Since inulin and levan are chemically similar, preparing levan derivatives corresponding to the inulin derivatives offers the possibility of making environmentally friendly cleaning products based on a more readily water soluble polymer.
Levan is a hydrophilic sphere up to 200 nm in diameter. The branches sticking out of the sphere surface offer a large number of substitution sites for large hydrophobic moieties with minimal steric hindrance. Larger hydrophobic chains generally make a stronger surfactant. A more powerful surfactant allows the use of smaller volumes.
A recent paper describes a mathematical model of energy in topical storms (Barenblatt). Calculations suggest large water droplets from rough seas lead to reduced turbulence and a sharp acceleration in flow, accounting for rapid wind acceleration. Even ancient mariners knew that spreading oil (surfactant) on the water could reduce squall intensity. This mathematical formula shows that wind speeds at 200 mph in the presence of large water droplets (rough seas) can be reduced to only 27 mph by removing the water droplets (calm seas). The authors suggest the damping of hurricanes by use of a surfactant. If this theory is to be tested, it will be essential to have an environmentally safe surfactant. A levan-based surfactant has the potential of filling that need.
Barenblatt G, Chorin A, Prostokishin V. A note concerning the Lighthill "sandwich model" of tropical cyclones.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 102: 11148-11150 (2005).
Stevens C, Booten K, Laquiere I, Daenekindt L. Surface-active alkylurethanes of fructans.
Patent number EP0964054A1 (1999).
Van Brussel-Verraest D, Peters J, Van Bekkum H. Inulin derivatives. Patent number