Engineered Nanoparticles for Hydrocarbon Dectection in Oil-Field Rocks

Berlin, Jacob M. (Rice University) | Yu, Jie (Rice University) | Lu, Wei (Rice University) | Walsh, Erin E. (Rice University) | Zhang, Lunliang (Rice University) | Zhang, Ping (Rice University) | Chen, Wei (Nankai University) | Kan, Amy T. (Rice University) | Wong, Michael (Rice University) | Tomson, Mason B. (Rice University) | Tour, James M. (Rice University)


Polyvinyl alcohol functionalized oxidized carbon black efficiently carries a hydrophobic compound through a variety of oil-field rock types and releases the compound when the rock contains hydrocarbons.

The transport of small hydrophobic organic molecules through porous media has been studied for many years. In isolation, these hydrophobic molecules sorb very strongly to nearly all types of soil. However, it has been observed that these hydrophobic chemicals disperse more broadly in the environment than would be expected based on their strong affinity for binding to soil (Baker, 1986). One possible explanation for this behavior is that organic macromolecules, which possess amphiphilic characteristics, may sequester the hydrophobic small molecules and facilitate their transport by carrying them within the macromolecule (McCarthy, 1989; Enfield, 1988). Laboratory scale experiments have demonstrated this effect, with some cases, such as the use of ß-cyclodextrin, showing highly efficient transport of a variety of hydrophobic aromatic molecules through soil (Brussea, 1994; Magee, 1991). However, selective release of the transported cargo has not been reported and ß-cyclodextrin only forms 1:1 inclusion complexes with its hydrophobic cargo.