Evaluation of dispersant effectiveness for oil spills

Advisor: Dr. Marina Tsianou (Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering)
Other Mentors: Dr. Paschalis Alexandridis; Biswa Das (PhD student)
Primary Activities: Laboratory experiments

Project Summary: About 2 million gallons of chemical dispersants were used in the clean-up efforts of the worst oil spill in the US history, resulting from the April 20, 2010 BP/Deepwater Horizon accident.  Such enormous amounts of dispersants cause concerns for the wildlife and humans exposed to them.  At the same time, over the course of the past few months it has become apparent that fundamental information concerning the interaction of crude oil with individual dispersant formulation ingredients (mainly surfactants, polymers, and solvents) is lacking.  There is a need to establish the specific roles that each of these ingredients play in the dispersion of crude oil.  REU students involved in this project will work closely with graduate students to generate data on oil-surfactant interactions at a molecular level, and to evaluate the emulsification of oil in the presence of dispersants and/or their components under different conditions. The overall goal of the research is to facilitate the reformulation of dispersants, so as to render them more effective for deep-water applications as well as safer toward the environment.

Skills/Courses Recommended: Knowledge of chemistry, laboratory experience desired
Anticipated Conference Presentation(s): Great Lake Research Consortium

University at Buffalo