Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Less Toxic, More Efficient Dispersant is Scientist’s Goal

23.09.2010
After the failure of the Deepwater Horizon oil well last spring, nearly 2 million gallons of dispersant were released into the Gulf of Mexico to contain the spill. While preliminary reports suggest that it successfully dispersed much of the oil, the long-term effect of such a massive volume of dispersant on ecosystems, wildlife and humans remains to be seen.
That’s why a University at Buffalo researcher with expertise in how the main ingredients of dispersants -- polymers and surfactants -- interact in solutions and at surfaces is working toward designing more environmentally friendly oil dispersants, including those based on natural, mineral-based ingredients.

Marina Tsianou, PhD, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering in the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is conducting the research under a recently awarded RAPID Response Research Grant from the National Science Foundation.

On Sept. 22, she will meet with scientists doing similar work at an NSF-sponsored “Workshop on the Science and Technology of Dispersants Relevant to Deep Sea Floor Oil Releases” in Arlington, Va.

“The purpose of our grant is to create novel dispersants through the utilization of polymers, surfactants and solvents that would be less harsh to the environment,” says Tsianou.

Her goal is to develop new dispersants through a better understanding of how they interact with crude oil and naturally occurring particles at the nanoscale level.

“There is very little published research on the fundamental interactions between crude oil and dispersant,” says Tsianou.

Tsianou notes that the scientific community was aware of the need for additional research on dispersants as far back as 2005 when the National Academy of Sciences reported that research on dispersants, especially on the molecular level, was very limited and on the decline.

“That is where our research fits in,” she says.

Tsianou and her colleagues at UB will be relying on their expertise on using macromolecules, nanoparticles and inorganic molecules as building blocks for high-end, multifunctional materials and products that ultimately improve the quality of life.

“When we study these surface interactions, we can learn how to control hydrophilicity and hydrophobicity -- their affinity, or lack of affinity, for crude oil -- as well as develop novel mechanisms to optimize their properties,” she says.

Tsianou will explore the suitability of alternative solvents and surfactants, such as those found in processed foods, for some dispersant formulations, as well as mineral particles that could serve as environmentally friendly surface active agents.

“We also will take into consideration the different compositions that oil has, depending on its origin and the time elapsed since its release,” she says. “Oil that comes from Alaska has a different composition than oil drilled from the Gulf of Mexico or the Middle East.”

She and her UB colleagues will look at how mechanical disturbances, such as those caused by hurricanes and storms, affect the way that dispersant interacts with oil.

They also will study how local environmental conditions, such as those on the Great Lakes where, she points out, smaller-scale spills also occur, might influence how dispersants function and the long-term impact they might have on local wildlife and shorelines.

“If we make a more efficient dispersant, then we can use far less of it,” she says. “Millions of gallons of anything, even a very benign material, is a lot to release into the environment.”

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB’s more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

Ellen Goldbaum | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.buffalo.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Preservation of floodplains is flood protection
27.09.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>