Semester of Graduation



Master of Chemical Engineering (MChE)



Document Type



The recovery of spilled oil from water sources using hydrophobic porous absorbent has gained significant interest due to the ease of implementation, large-scale adaptability, and robust nature of the technique. However, the lack of biodegradability of these synthetic adsorbents has caused concern of further contaminating the environment from the generation of microplastic waste that is known to persist and accumulate in the marine food chain and other ecosystems. To mitigate this potential hazard, a new biocompatible alternative is needed to replace the non-degradable synthetic materials currently used. This thesis presents ZEin-based Low Density porous Absorbent (ZELDA), synthesized using a particle stabilized emulsion template, as a new class of tunable naturally derived porous material for oil spill remediation. Zein nanoparticles derived from corn are implemented to form and stabilize the oil-water pickering emulsion. The polymeric zein added to the continuous phase enables the formation of a porous matrix through its gradual phase separation. ZELDA's pore diameter, surface wettability, and oil absorption capacity can be programmed by adjusting the Pickering emulsion's oil-to-water phase volume ratio (R) and its selective surface functionalization using flaxseed oil. ZELDA's synthesis can be further modified with iron oxide nanoparticles to elicit a magnetic response, which allows its contactless maneuverability and recovery from the spilled site. The research outlines a new zein-based porous material synthesis method and proposes a synthetic mechanism for controlled surface functionalization, wettability, and responsiveness stimulation of the porous absorbent. Synthesized plant-based porous adsorbents offer an eco-friendly alternative to commonly used non-biodegradable oil sorbents for leaked oil remediation.

Committee Chair

Valsaraj, Kalliat T.