Technology Licensing Feature: Using Capillary Foams to Recover Spilled Oil

<p>Capillary foam</p>

Capillary foam

Georgia Tech inventors (Carson MeredithSven Holger Behrens, and Yi Zhang) have identified a method that utilizes surfactant-free, oil-tolerant capillary foams consisting of a combination of colloidal particles, oil, water, and gas. This method allows the recovery of off-shore oil spills that allows the subsequent recovery of the oil. 

A collection device allows the infusion of air and the addition of colloidal particles.  As the oil and water is processed through the device, a capillary foam gel is formed. The foam cells are stabilized synergistically by oil and (readily available, inexpensive) solid particles of appropriate wettability, without the need for any surfactants. Networks of oil-bridged solid particles inside the aqueous lamella of capillary foams confer upon the foam a tunable viscosity. The accumulated foam can be mechanically removed from the water surface (either by skimming, scooping, or pumping), and transported to another location where a de-foaming agent can be added to “decompose” the capillary foam into its component parts (water, recovered oil, and stabilizing particles). 

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Walter Rich