Investigating the effect of oil spills
on the environment and public health.
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Funding Source: Year 3-5 Investigator Grants (RFP-II)

Project Overview

Development of Cost-Efficient and Concentration-Independent Dispersants for Improved Oil Spill Remediation

Principal Investigator
Tulane University
Department of Chemistry
Member Institutions
Tulane University, University of Southern Mississippi


Overview: Dr. Scott Grayson at Tulane University was awarded an RFP-II grant at $1,035,728 to lead the RFP-II project entitled “Development of Cost-Efficient and Concentration-Independent Dispersants for Improved Oil Spill Remediation” which was carried out between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2015, with a six month No Cost Extension that ended May 31, 2016.  The project consisted of 2 institutions and 18 research team members. Through this work, Dr. Grayson and his team aimed to identify a set of novel, commercially viable surfactants that exhibit both concentration-independence and exceptional biocompatibility.

Research Highlights: Dr. Grayson’s research  resulted in 37 outreach products and activities, 70 conference presentations, 16 publications in peer reviewed journals, and 17 datasets submitted to the GoMRI Information and Data Cooperative (GRIIDC), which are  available to the public. Dr. Grayson also engaged 9 students over the course of his award. Significant outcomes of his research are highlighted below.


Theme 4: Technology: The collaboration successfully addressed the initial goals of the proposal by achieving the following targets:

  • The design of biocompatible, amphiphilic nanoparticles that exhibit stable colloids in water, but also the ability to encapsulate/solubilize hydrocarbons with these nanoparticles.  This was achieved by constructing these nanocarriers from biocompatible and biodegradable materials, including: a silica nanoparticle core, a polycaprolactone surface layer, and a poly(ethylene glycol) corona.
  • Confirmation that each of these amphiphilic nanoparticles can act as if it were an entire self-assembled micelle, hence the term “single nanoparticle micelles.”  This was confirmed by studying the encapsulation of UV active dyes while diluting the nanoparticles suspensions in water.
  • Verification that single nanoparticles micelles exhibit enhance temporal stability relative to self-assembled micelles in water.  In order to probe the breadth of marine environments, this encapsulation was tested not just in deionized water, but also in water with varying salt concentrations, and water that has been sampled directly from the Gulf of Mexico. 
  • Quantification of the encapsulation/dispersing capacity of the single nanoparticle micelles, relative to Corexit, for oil and other hydrophobic compounds.  These studies confirmed that the single nanoparticle micelles were capable of dispersing equal amounts of oil as the Corexit standard, yet showed significantly enhanced stability over the course of multiple days.  

PDF Proposal Abstract

This research was made possible by a grant from BP/The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.