A mixture of oil and water is undesirable for various industries and the traditional methods of separating them can be highly expensive, challenging, and environmentally risky. However, their separation may get easier with the breakthrough yet simple method developed by a team of researchers from the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas, Austin.
Method Could Improve Treatment of Fresh Water Used in Hydraulic Fracturing: Researchers
In this method, magnetic nanoparticles were used to separate oil from water through a process that relies on a magnet and electrostatic force. The researchers believe that the new technique could be used in the treatment massive amount of fresh water used in hydraulic fracturing and to clean up oil spills. The current oil production methods are efficient only up to 95 percent in separating oil from produced water and leave behind tiny droplets of oil that are difficult to extract. This new technique is aimed at removing those small oil droplets before the water could be considered treated.
Versatility of Nanoparticles Forms Premise of Research
The versatility of nanoparticles is the inspiration behind finding out how the particles could be incorporated with oil production to reduce its environmental footprint and enhance its efficiency in both offshore and onshore drilling. The key advancement of the team is that they were able to design surface coatings for nanoparticles that stick to oil droplets using electrostatic force. The flexibility of magnetic nanoparticles coupled with the ease of this technique motivated the UT Austin researchers to consider different applications. They are exploring how these particles can be used to remove lead and other contaminants from potable water.