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1. n. [Enhanced Oil Recovery, Drilling Fluids]
A chemical that preferentially adsorbs at an interface, lowering the surface tension or interfacial tension between fluids or between a fluid and a solid. This term encompasses a multitude of materials that function as emulsifiers, dispersants, oil-wetters, water-wetters, foamers and defoamers. The type of surfactant behavior depends on the structural groups on the molecule (or mixture of molecules). Hydrophile-lipophile balance (HLB) number helps define the function that a molecular group will perform.