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A less toxic, more efficient dispersant is scientist's goal
Date:9/21/2010

agues at UB will be relying on their expertise on using macromolecules, nanoparticles and inorganic molecules as building blocks for high-end, multifunctional materials and products that ultimately improve the quality of life.

"When we study these surface interactions, we can learn how to control hydrophilicity and hydrophobicity -- their affinity, or lack of affinity, for crude oil -- as well as develop novel mechanisms to optimize their properties," she says.

Tsianou will explore the suitability of alternative solvents and surfactants, such as those found in processed foods, for some dispersant formulations, as well as mineral particles that could serve as environmentally friendly surface active agents.

"We also will take into consideration the different compositions that oil has, depending on its origin and the time elapsed since its release," she says. "Oil that comes from Alaska has a different composition than oil drilled from the Gulf of Mexico or the Middle East."

She and her UB colleagues will look at how mechanical disturbances, such as those caused by hurricanes and storms, affect the way that dispersant interacts with oil.

They also will study how local environmental conditions, such as those on the Great Lakes where, she points out, smaller-scale spills also occur, might influence how dispersants function and the long-term impact they might have on local wildlife and shorelines.

"If we make a more efficient dispersant, then we can use far less of it," she says. "Millions of gallons of anything, even a very benign material, is a lot to release into the environment."


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Contact: Ellen Goldbaum
goldbaum@buffalo.edu
716-645-4605
University at Buffalo
Source:Eurekalert

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