RAPID: Oil Clean-up and Recovery through Novel Interfacial Engineering

Project: Research project

Project Details


Scientific Significance (Intrinsic Merit) The recent oil spill (the largest spill in history) in the Gulf of Mexico has caused a tremendous and unpredictable environmental disaster. The catastrophic explosion causes discharges of up to 100,000 barrels per day and the oil slick already covers a surface area of over 10,000 square miles. Other than the emergency of stopping the oil leak, there is also an urgency to generate effective, efficient, and environmental benign solutions to clean-up the massive spill. This proposal focuses on performing novel interfacial engineering through employing functionalized nanoparticles/particles at oil-water interfaces. Specifically, we will synthesize environmental responsive core-shell magnetic nanoparticles that equilibrate at oil-water interfaces, release rheological modifiers, control the viscoelasticity of the oil, remove the oil layer from the interface under a magnetic field, and recover usable oils. In addition, we will synthesize hollow silica magnetic particles that equilibrate at oil-water interfaces, remove the oil layer from the interface under a magnetic field, and possibly recover usable oils. The proposed work is of both fundamental and practical importance. Surfactants at oil-water interfaces have been studied extensively, but particles at interfaces are not well-understood. Functionalized nanoparticles/particles open tremendous new opportunities to engineer oil-water interfaces and demand a better fundamental understanding. The synthesis of the particles uses Pickering emulsions (employ particles as an emulsifier), a subject of increasing interest, as templates and the subsequent interfacial engineering offers novel designs and solutions to tackle interfacial problems. Broader Impacts (Extrinsic Merit) Research and education will be integrated throughout the project duration. The proposed work is anticipated to offer a paradigm shift in generating effective, efficient, and environmental benign solutions in respond to the urgent call of oil clean-up and recovery in the Gulf of Mexico and other oil-water separation processes. The PI will collaborate with the Shell Oil Company in this project to promote translating fundamental research to practical applications. In addition, the PI will continue her strong commitment to promoting graduate and undergraduate research, including applying for the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative (FURI) program at ASU to leverage NSF funds. The proposed project provides an excellent example of educating general public how fundamental research may lead to a novel engineering solution which addresses unexpected natural and man-made disasters. It will be used an example in multiple recruiting and retention events to encourage more participation in science and engineering, including from the underrepresented groups. The PI will establish a Summer Program in partnership with the existing minority programs, for example, the Native American Summer Institute at ASU.
Effective start/end date8/15/107/31/12


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $49,999.00


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