Sugar based amphiphiles: easily accessible and efficient crude oil spill thickening agents†
In this work, we demonstrate the use of biomass for the catalytic production of phase-selective gelators (PSGs) as a cost-effective, environmentally benign and ideal method for crude oil spill remediation, as well as execute the study exclusively in crude oil. The use of PSGs has recently provided great promise relative to that of their traditional counterparts. However, the use of PSGs with crude oil is much more complicated due to its complex composition. All of the current PSG methods are demonstrated with refined oils or do not employ eco-friendly methods like enzymatic synthesis. Our current project entails studying sugar alcohol-derived amphiphiles for their phase-selective gelation in crude oil; the PSGs are derived from renewable, benign materials and synthesized via a simple, single-step, enzymatic catalysis that required no purification. The results showed that, after a rigorous and systematic testing, the mannitol-derived amphiphile using 8-carbon alkyl chain length (M-8) turned out to be the best crude oil PSG among the studied amphiphiles. M-8 demonstrated a versatility towards thickening of different crude oil types, an efficient ability towards selective gelation of the oil (forming crude oil gel that is over sixty-one-times its mass and stable up to 109.7 °C) in a crude oil/water mixture, and an ability to form gel under practical situations such as seawater conditions. These qualities, in addition to the use of a simple and environmentally benign method to synthesize the structuring agents, make this amphiphile very practical in real life application.