Microstructural characteristics of surfactant assembly into a gel-like mesophase for application as an oil spill dispersant

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Hypothesis: Polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monooleate (Tween 80) can be incorporated into the gel-like phase formed by L-α-phosphatidylcholine (PC) and dioctyl sulfosuccinate sodium salt (DOSS) for potential application as a gel-like dispersant for oil spill treatment. Such gel-like dispersants offer advantages over existing liquid dispersants for mitigating oil spill impacts. Experiments: Crude oil-in-saline water emulsions stabilized by the surfactant system were characterized by optical microscopy and turbidity measurements while interfacial tensions were measured by the spinning drop and pendant drop techniques. The microstructure of the gel-like surfactant mesophase was elucidated using small angle neutron scattering (SANS), cryo scanning electron microscopy (cryo-SEM), and 31P nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Findings: The gel-like phase consisting of PC, DOSS and Tween 80 is positively buoyant on water and breaks down on contact with floating crude oil layers to release the surfactant components. The surfactant mixture effectively lowers the crude oil-saline water interfacial tension to the 10−2 mN/m range, producing stable crude oil-in-saline water emulsions with an average droplet size of about 7.81 µm. Analysis of SANS, cryo-SEM and NMR spectroscopy data reveals that the gel-like mesophase has a lamellar microstructure that transition from rolled lamellar sheets to onion-like, multilamellar structures with increasing Tween 80 content.

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Journal of Colloid and Interface Science

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