Bo Wang’s paper on dendritic polymers for oil spill dispersion was just published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry C. This is the latest in our ongoing work in the oil spill dispersion field, funded by the EPA. Bo is a graduate student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Clemson, working with Feng Ding. Other collaborators on this paper are Nick Geitner, Thomas Davis, Pu Chun Ke, and David Ladner.
The main finding of this work is that dendritic polymers — poly(amidoamine) (PAMAM) dendrimers, in this case — have a couple different ways of dispersing oil. One mechanism that is often discussed in the literature occurs when a few oil molecules are encapsulated by a single polymer molecule. This is the “unimolecular micelle” mechanism. But we have observed in our experiments that much more oil is dispersed than can be accounted for by encapsulation alone. Bo ran computer simulations that included many oil molecules and a few polymer molecules. He saw that indeed the polymers can work together to sequester more oil than individual polymers can do on their own; it’s an example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. This work was novel in that previous models used too few molecules to observe these effects; Bo expanded the simulation space and thus found new behaviors.
We’re excited to see this paper in press!