Stoppers and Skins on Clay Nanotubes Help Stabilize Oil-in-Water Emulsions and Modulate the Release of Encapsulated Surfactants

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© 2019 American Chemical Society. This work develops the concepts of particle-stabilized emulsions using tubular natural clays known as halloysites to attach to the oil-water interface and stabilize oil-in-water emulsions. Such halloysite nanotubes (HNT) serve as reservoirs for surfactants and can deliver surfactants to the oil-water interface and thus lower the oil-water interfacial tension. This two-step concept of surfactant delivery and droplet stabilization by particles has significant implications to oil spill remediation. However, to deliver surfactant loaded HNTs in a water-based solvent slurry, it is important to stopper the nanotubes to prevent premature release of the surfactant. This work focuses on the use of an environmentally benign two-dimensional metal-organic framework formed by coordinating Fe(III) with a polyphenolic as a stoppering agent. Such metal-phenolic networks (MPN) form a skin around the HNTs, thus providing a way to effectively sequester surfactant cargo for controlled release. Cryo-scanning electron microscopy (Cryo-SEM) shows that these HNTs and HNT bundles attach to the oil-water interface with side-on orientation. Inverted drop tensiometry was used to characterize the dynamic interfacial tension resulting from the release of a model surfactant (Tween 80) from the HNTs and indicates that the MPN stoppers are effective in sequestering the surfactant cargo for extended periods at neutral pH values. Release triggered by MPN disassembly at acidic pH values can be performed just prior to delivery to oil spills. The concepts and scalability of this process have significant implications for oil spill remediation, enhanced oil recovery, and biomedical and pharmaceutical applications.

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ACS Applied Nano Materials

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