June 22, 2013
Glass Treated With Common Detergent Ingredient Could Limit Environmental Damage From Oil Spills
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Mechanical engineers at the University of Alberta have demonstrated that a simple glass surface can be used to repel oil underwater, making it a potentially useful tool for cleaning up petroleum spills.Incidents such as the 1989 Exxon Valdez accident and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion were responsible for leaking massive amounts of crude oil into the water, harming marine flora and fauna that come into contact with the substance.
Damage to aquatic ecosystems can be prevented, however, through the use of underwater oil-repellent technology. Professor Sushanta Mitra and his colleagues created such a repellent by using surfactants, a common ingredient in soaps and detergents.
Mitra and team members Prashant Waghmare and Siddhartha Das used the compound to make an underwater glass surface repel oil. They propose adding large concentrations of surfactant to oil-contaminated water can make it so marine plants and animals can also repel oil and avoid the potential consequences.
According to the university, the engineers believe “the most important step in demonstrating this property of surfactants is to ensure accurate deposition of an oil drop on the underwater glass surface. [They] came up with the first possible technique to reliably and controllably deposit oil drops on such underwater surfaces.”
They have published two separate papers detailing their findings. The first covers the technique associated with the injection of oil on a surface beneath the water. That study was published online in Soft Matter, a journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, on May 24. It will also appear as a cover article in the upcoming edition of the print version of the publication.
The second study reveals the effect of surfactant in helping make underwater glass surfaces extraordinarily oil-repellent. That study was published last month in the journal Scientific Reports and reportedly demonstrates “for the first time that a glass surface, placed under water, can be made superoleophobic (with unprecedented contact angles close to 180 degrees and roll off angles only a few fractions of 1 degree) by merely changing the surfactant content of the water medium in which the oil (immiscible in water) has been dispersed.”