Oil emulsification using surface-tunable carbon black particles

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Emulsification of oil from a subsurface spill and keeping it stable in the water is an important component of the natural remediation process. Motivated by the need to find alternate dispersants for emulsifying oil following a spill, we examine particle-stabilized oil-in-water emulsions. Emulsions that remain stable for months are prepared either by adding acid or salt to carboxyl-terminated carbon black (CB) suspension in water to make the particles partially hydrophobic, adding the oil to this suspension and mixing. When naphthalene, a model potentially toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, is added to octane and an emulsion formed, it gets adsorbed significantly by the CB particles, and its transport into the continuous water is markedly reduced. In contrast to an undesirable seawater-in-crude oil emulsion produced using a commercially used dispersant, Corexit 9500A, we demonstrate the formation of a stable crude oil-in-seawater emulsion using the CB particles (with no added acid or salt), important for natural degradation. The large specific surface area of these surface functionalized CB particles, their adsorption capability and their ability to form stable emulsions are an important combination of attributes that potentially make these particles a viable alternative or supplement to conventional dispersants for emulsifying crude oil following a spill. © 2013 American Chemical Society.

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ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces