Developing inexpensive, non-hazardous and environmentally-benign solvents for industrial activities

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Earth Science and Engineering

Abstract

Organic solvents are the most commonly used solvents for extracting hydrocarbons from various matrices. This is despite their difficulty of production, expense, health hazards and potential harm to the environment. New water-based solvent systems for extracting hydrocarbons have been developed for the ExoMars mission under STFC grants. These surfactant (Polysorbate 80) based solutions are cheap, efficient, safe, environmentally benign and are now ready for transfer to industry. The new solvents can replace organic solvents used in industrial cleaning activities. The surfactants can help scavenge organic compounds from water and are potentially valuable for treating contaminated waste waters from petroleum recovery activities thereby dramatically reducing the high water demand for these large scale industrial processes. Existing equipment and procedures can be easily adapted to accommodate the new solvent systems. The technology transfer carries great financial benefit and little risk.

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