Spectroscopic and Thermodynamic Studies of Oil Dispersants at the Oil/Water Interface
REU Program Director
Geraldine Richmond, Chemistry
Oil dispersants have a history of being used to research_image_groupbreak-up oil spills but as we have witnessed in the recent Gulf oil spill, little is known about their toxicity and their effectiveness in sea water.  Our interest is to contribute to the understanding on a molecular level of how relevant dispersants behave at an oil/water interface under conditions where the composition of the aqueous phase is altered in acidity and salt concentration.  In this project we will use vibrational sum frequency spectroscopy (VSFS) and interfacial surface tension to examine two families of surfactants at the CCl4/H2O interface; sodium dioctylsulfosuccinate and sorbitan monooleate.

The REU student will conduct two kinds of experiments:  (1) VSF measurements of the vibrational spectroscopy of the dispersant at an organic/water interface, and (2) interfacial tension measurements using the pendant drop method.  The spectroscopy experiments will be conducted initially with a graduate student until he/she is familiar with the laser system and can work more independently. The project will be a valuable experience for the REU participant in combining their chemistry and physics knowledge while learning about surface science, molecular modeling, spectral analysis, laser spectroscopy, and nonlinear optics.