Non-Ionic Surfactants

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Nonionic surfactants contain hydroxyl or polyoxyethylene groups. They have the advantages of ionic surfactants, a wide variety of hydrophilic equilibrium (HLB) surfactants can be obtained by changing the molecular structure. They have been successfully applied to various biotechnological processes to promote the dissolution and stability of drug carriers, and are also widely used as foam stabilizers, wetting agents, and emulsifiers.

The Classification of Non-ionic Surfactants

  • Ethoxylated Non-ionic Surfactants

Fatty alcohol ethoxylates (FAEs) are the most important non-ionic surfactants. In this type of surfactant, the toxicity was higher for the formulas with lower alkyl chain lengths, however, some researchers have proven that the biodegradation metabolites of this surfactant are more toxic than the starting compound.

  • Alkylglucosides

The alkylpolyglucosides (APGs) belong to non-ionic surfactants of growth. They have good foaming performance and a synergistic effect with other surfactants.

  • Amine Oxide Derivative Non-ionic Surfactants

Aminoxy surfactants are classified as nitrogen non-ionic surfactants, which have good foaming properties and skin compatibility. They are special non-ionic surfactants.

The Application of the Non-Ionic Surfactant Vesicles (Niosomes) in Chemical Drugs, Protein Drugs, and Gene Delivery

Niosomes first emerged in the field of cosmetics and are now attracting extensive attention as a vesicle delivery system in pharmaceutics. Due to their ability to entrap both hydrophobic and hydrophilic drugs, niosomes are reported as ideal carriers for the delivery of drugs such as doxorubicin, vaccines, insulin, siRNA, and so on.

Schematic structures of non-ionic surfactant vesicle. (a) unilamellar vesicle, (b,c) multi-lamellar vesicle.Fig.1 Schematic structures of non-ionic surfactant vesicle. (a) unilamellar vesicle, (b,c) multi-lamellar vesicle. (Ge, 2019)

  • Chemical Drugs

For nano-vesicle-based delivery systems, niosomes can be used as an alternative to liposomes and polymersomes for chemical drug delivery. They possess both a hydrophilic cavity and hydrophobic shell and are suitable for chemical drug loading. They can also provide a way for the co-delivery of two different kinds of drugs to achieve the desired therapeutic effects.

  • Protein and Peptide Drugs

Niosomes may serve as good carriers for the delivery of various protein and peptide drugs and show good performance in vaccine formulation and application. It is reported that niosome was investigated for the delivery of insulin via the parenteral and vaginal routes and that it showed a good ability to protect insulin from degradation. Another application of niosomes is their usage in vaccine formulations. The researchers have developed a non-ionic surfactant involving a nano-vector which aimed to improve the physical stability of a dimethyl-dioctadecyl-ammonium vesicular adjuvant system. These results could provide a way for the development of noisome-based vaccine formulations for disease prevention and therapy.

  • Gene Delivery

Niosomes have been widely used as oligonucleotide carriers for the treatment of many kinds of diseases in reported studies. They can be used for the delivery of gene materials due to some advantages such as good chemical and physical stability, relatively smaller sizes, etc. Niosomes can also serve as a delivery system for targeting stem cells. A study of niosomes proved that they could function as a platform for the delivery of RNAs to human mesenchymal stem cells to promote cell differential.

The design of theranostic niosomes for intracellular delivery of siRNA/miRNA and labelling of cells upon dequenching.Fig.2 The design of theranostic niosomes for intracellular delivery of siRNA/miRNA and labelling of cells upon dequenching. (Ge, 2019)

The Classical Commercial Non-ionic Surfactant

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  1. Ge, X.; et al. Advances of non-ionic surfactant vesicles (niosomes) and their application in drug delivery. Pharmaceutics. 2019, 11(2): 55.
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