Polymers for Environmental Remediation

New 'concentration-independent' oil dispersants that will not allow sequestered oil to be released in the infinite dilution of the ocean.

New ‘concentration-independent’ oil dispersants.

There are two projects we are pursuing in the general area of environmental remediation:

Novel Oil Dispersants: The Deepwater Horizon oil spill demonstrated a key need for the development of environmentally friendly dispersants. In collaboration with Grayson, Reed, and Denslow, we are developing ‘concentration-independent’ dispersants that will not allow sequestered oil to be released in the infinite dilution of the ocean. Unimolecular micelles can be produced using a sacrificial nanoparticle scaffold of silica or lactose to afford hollow amphiphilic nanodispersants (HANDs). Our recent results have demonstrated the production and solution properties of HANDs, and we are currently exploring (1) additional nanoparticle scaffolds, (2) aquatic toxicity in both freshwater and seawater, and (3) fundamental design parameters and how they affect physiochemical and toxicological properties.  In a separate project, we are studying the use of polymers to produce organogels. The goal is to develop a system that is able to convert spilled oil into a gel that can be physically removed from the suface of the water.

Membranes for Gas Separation: In collaboration with Ziegler and Vasenkov, our long-term goal is to develop air separation membranes capable of highly selective separations of O2 and other small gases, such as CO2, from N2. The proposed membrane incorporates a nanoporous monolith that induces different types of diffusion for each gas in the mixture based on molecular size.  In addition, the flux of N2 through the membrane will be dramatically reduced by the incorporation of a N2-phobic polymer coating, which acts as a smart gate excluding N2 from entering the membrane channels. This two-pronged approach is expected to afford membranes with high oxygen flux and exceptionally high selectivity.

Previous research from the Savin Group in the area of Environmentally Friendly Polymers was cited by Rep. Welch (D-VT) in a speech to Congress.

Who is working on this?

Graduate Students: Susan, Amber, Scarlett
Undergraduate Students: Naomi, Abby, Adriana