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(Science: chemistry) An agent which purifies or cleanses.

(Science: cell biology) amphipathic, surface active, molecules with polar (water soluble) and nonpolar hydrophobic) domains. They bind strongly to hydrophobic molecules or molecular domains to confer water solubility.

Examples include: sodium dodecyl sulphate, fatty acid salts, the Triton family, octyl glycoside.

Origin: L. Detergere = to cleanse