The University of Manchester

School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science

Multiphase Processing Group

Publications Presentations

James Winterburn

Biosurfactant production

PhD & PhD Plus Researcher

Start date: September 2007
Co-supervisor: Dr Aline Miller
Project: Production of biosurfactant by fermentation with integral foam fractionation
Sponsor: EPSRC CASE with Unilever

James's PhD & PhD Plus laid a foundation for the group's "Biosurfactant process engineering and a new era of white unit operations" project which he continued on as a post-doctoral researcher within the group.

My research interest lies in the separation of microbially produced surfactants, known as biosurfactants. Biosurfactants are capable of fulfilling many of the roles for which petrochemical or oleochemical surfactants are currently used. They also have unique properties that can be utilised in innovative ways, including the improvement of aerated foods and controlled drug delivery.

I produce biosurfactant as an extracellular fermentation product, meaning the system is susceptible to problematic foaming. Through selective removal of the surface active product it should be possible to minimise foaming without the addition of antifoaming agents. To recover the biosurfactant product a separation technique called foam fractionation is used. Foam fractionation enriches surfactant solutions via absorbance to a gas liquid interface and can increase surfactant concentration by an order of magnitude.

To characterise the crude fermentation broth I use several methods including; HPLC to determine biosurfactant concentration, dynamic surface tension measurements to investigate competitive adsorption of different surfactants and multiple light scattering to measure foam stability.

Currently I'm designing a novel process in which foam fractionation is integrated as a parallel unit operation, connected to the fermenter via inlet and outlet ports. The idea is to strip biosurfactant from the culture medium as it is produced, increasing the efficiency of biosurfactant production.

Photo of bubblesProcessed image of bubblesDrawing of bubbles
Measuring bubble sizes in a flowing foam


  • Winterburn, JB, Martin, PJ. Foam mitigation and exploitation in biosurfactant production. Biotechnology Letters, 43, 187-195.

  • Winterburn, JB, Russell, AB, Martin, PJ (2011). Integrated recirculating foam fractionation for the continuous recovery of biosurfactant from fermenters.Biochemical Engineering Journal, 54, 132-139.
    [download pdf 0.6 MB]

  • Winterburn, JB, Russell, AB, Martin, PJ (2011). Characterisation of HFBII biosurfactant production and foam fractionation with and without antifoaming agents. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 90, 911-920.
    [download pdf 0.3 MB]

  • Martin, PJ, Dutton, HM, Winterburn, JB, Baker, S, Russell, AB (2010). Foam fractionation with reflux. Chemical Engineering Science, 65, 3825-3835.
    [download pdf 0.9 MB]

  • Winterburn, JB, Martin, PJ (2008). Mechanisms of ultrasound foam interactions. Asia-Pacific Journal of Chemical Engineering, 4, 184-190.
    [download pdf - 0.5 MB]


  • Winterburn, JB, Martin, PJ, Russell, AB. Production of biosurfactant by fermentation with integral foam fractionation. Poster presented at the CIKTN Associates Event, March 2009, York, UK. Awarded third prize in poster competition.
    [download pdf - 2.9 MB]

  • Winterburn, JB, Martin, PJ. Biosurfactant foam separation. Poster presented at the IChemE Biochemical Engineering Subject Group Young Researchers Meeting, January 2008, London, UK.
    [download pdf - 1.1 MB]

  • Winterburn, JB, Baker, S, Martin, PJ. Biosurfactants: Efficient production and applications. Winner of IChemE sponsorship competition to present at the 100th AIChE Annual Meeting, November 2008, Philadelphia, USA.
    [download pdf - 0.5 MB]