Surfactants are amphiphilic compounds containing both hydrophobic and hydrophilic groups and thereby are soluble in both organic solvents and water. Owing to the characteristic behavior of surfactants to orient at surfaces and form micelles by reducing the surface tension, they play an important role in many practical applications including the solubilization of membrane proteins, the decrease of the nonspecific adsorption of the material to the container surface etc. in the area of biochemistry. Surfactants are classified as ionic or nonionic depending on the formal charge on their hydrophilic head. Ionic surfactants can further be cationic, anionic or zwitter-ionic on the basis of the type of the charge present. The selection of surfactants in different fields is decided according to their particular usage.
The commonly used surfactants suitable in the field of biochemical research are listed below.