American Chemical Society
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Targeted and Stimulus-Responsive Delivery of Surfactant to the Oil–Water Interface for Applications in Oil Spill Remediation

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journal contribution
posted on 2019-12-20, 20:39 authored by Azeem Farinmade, Olakunle Francis Ojo, James Trout, Jibao He, Vijay John, Diane A. Blake, Yuri M. Lvov, Donghui Zhang, Duy Nguyen, Arijit Bose
The use of chemical dispersants is a well-established approach to oil spill remediation where surfactants in an appropriate solvent are contacted with the oil to reduce the oil–water interfacial tension and create small oil droplets capable of being sustained in the water column. Dispersant formulations typically include organic solvents, and to minimize environmental impacts of dispersant use and avoid surfactant wastage it is beneficial to use water-based systems and target the oil–water interface. The approach here involves the tubular clay minerals known as halloysite nanotubes (HNTs) that serve as nanosized reservoir for surfactants. Such particles generate Pickering emulsions with oil, and the release of surfactant reduces the interfacial tension to extremely low values allowing small droplets to be formed that are colloidally stable in the water column. We report new findings on engineering the surfactant-loaded halloysite nanotubes to be stimuli responsive such that the release of surfactant is triggered by contact with oil. This is achieved by forming a thin coating of wax to stopper the nanotubes to prevent the premature release of surfactant. Surfactant release only occurs when the wax dissolves upon contact with oil. The system thus represents an environmentally benign approach where the wax coated HNTs are dispersed in an aqueous solvent and delivered to an oil spill whereupon they release surfactant to the oil–water interface upon contact with oil.