Controlled and Targeted Delivery of Surfactants for Enhanced Oil Recovery Using Specially Designed Nanoparticles

Cornell University Background
World energy consumption still relies 30% on fossil fuels and oil remains an important resource. To meet the energy demands, there is a need to identify more reserves as well as increase the levels of production of existing ones. The discovery of new oil fields is approaching saturation. Hence, better management of existing reservoirs has become critical. The injection of surfactants has been extensively investigated as an efficient approach for enhanced oil recovery (EOR).
Technology Overview
Researchers at Cornell University disclose the design and fabrication of new NP (nanoparticle) systems for the targeted and controlled release of surfactants. The new NPs platform comprises of a core, which is attached to polyelectrolyte brushes. The charges and accompanying counter ions are distributed throughout the polyelectrolyte brushes rather than placed at the end of polymer chains and are positively charged.
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Since the oil in a reservoir is typically negatively charged, NPs are attracted and assembled at the water/oil interface. This allows for fine-tuning the stability of the NPs to meet specific salinity environments, which are applicable for different reservoirs. After assembly at the oil-water interface, the NPs can release appropriately loaded cargo at different pH and ionic strength.
Benefits

Controlled assembly and targeted delivery of the NPs.
Efficient and scalable method to directly assemble NPs.
Avoids oil adsorption by rocks and minerals by providing colloidal stability.

Applications

Water, oil, and subsurface environment monitoring and remediation.
Removal of contaminants from the soil as well as enhanced oil recovery.
Delivery of surfactants or other chemicals in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

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