Spills and leakage of oil during offshore oil production or marine transportation cause both long-term damage to water ecosystems and loss of valuable resources. Thus, efficient strategies for capturing and treating such releases are urgently required. Gravity-driven siphons allow the transport of liquids between phases. Siphons have been utilized for various applications and hold promise for oil recovery. However, siphon devices generally suffer from significant issues such as low oil removal flow rate, poor stability, and inability to self-restart after disruption of the siphon. The goal of this project is to develop a novel oil skimming technology based on a new chemically modified graphene material. The hydrophobic nature of graphene is expected to result in high remediation efficiency. Experiments guided by computational molecular simulations will provide fundamental understanding of the interaction of oil with graphene nanochannels. Successful completion of this research will help guide the design of spontaneous, self-powered, and continuous oil remediation systems with significantly enhanced efficiency. Such systems would have broad-reaching impact on society by alleviating environmental and human health impacts of spilled oil.

The overall goal of this research project is to understand the nature of interaction between oil and graphene nanochannels. This will be achieved through experiments designed to elucidate the mechanisms governing the synergistic effects of the nanochannel geometry and surface functionalization of plasma-nanoengineered, vertically standing graphene petal (GP) oil skimmers. Guided by molecular simulation results, researchers will design and demonstrate an oil skimmer system based on chemically modified GPs with controlled morphologies for spontaneous, self-powered, and highly efficient oil spill remediation. The knowledge learned from this research will offer insights into developing unique graphene materials to address pressing oil pollution issues. The design principles will also accelerate broader applications of graphene materials to other environmental applications such as seawater desalination, wastewater treatment, and soil and air pollution prevention and remediation. The project will also include significant educational activities, including research programs for local K-12 students, teachers, and undergraduates. Society will benefit from students acquiring relevant knowledge and skills to diversify and train the STEM workforce of the future.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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Board of Regents, Nshe, Obo University of Nevada, Reno
United States
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