Researchers at the Central Salt Marine and Chemical Research Institute have standardised a new, cheaper and eco-friendly process to deal with toxic marine algae which can be fatal to fish as well as humans who eat sea-food.

The process uses ‘amino-acid derived ionic liquid surfactants’ (AADILSes).

They are eco-friendly compounds, having an edge over the conventional liquid organic solvents like Benzene, Toulene and Chloromethane.

AADILSes also find use in drug delivery processes, making of bio-molecular devices, and nano-material synthesis.

“We have standardised a process to convert natural amino acids into ionic liquid surfactants which are very versatile in nature and highly bio-degradable,” said Dr Arvind Kumar, a scientist at the Bhavnagar-based institute.

“The ionic liquids are ten times more surface-active compared with the conventional surfactants. They have been found suitable for removal of harmful algae from sea water,” Kumar said.

“We exposed AADILSs to a toxic marine algae -- Amphidinium Cartarae -- to test its ability to prevent algal bloom. The results show that small concentration of it was enough to kill algae without side-effects on the surrounding environment.”

Fish can die on consumption of Amphidinium Cartarae, such is its toxicity. Further, the seafood with traces of this algae can make humans sick, mainly with stomach-related ailments.

The researchers used natural amino acids such as glycine, alanine, valine, glutamic acid and proline to produce the eco-friendly AAIDLSes, which are cheaper than bio-surfactants derived from micro organisms.

“The amino acids which we used cost around Rs 1,000 per kg, which is cheaper than the bio-surfactants available for prevention of growth of harmful marine algae,” Kumar said.

Bio-surfactants such as phospholipids are difficult to obtain and expensive to produce.

“The process of deriving bio-surfactants takes weeks or even more, whereas deriving ionic liquid surfactants from amino acids only takes a few hours,” he said.

A lot of research is currently underway to find ways to replace hazardous chemicals in various chemical processes with ionic liquids, the researchers at CSMCRI said.

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