Surfactants are present, and in fact crucial components, in a multitude of compositions ranging from consumer goods to industrial process streams. With a global market of more than $30 billion annually and expected to surpass $40 billion by 2020, the demand for surfactants is robust and steadily growing. Surfactant-laden waste-water streams can and often do have a negative impact on the environment. Furthermore, the same unique chemical properties that make these materials so useful also make them very difficult to separate and recover oftentimes, which makes them uneconomical for some industrial processes that would otherwise greatly benefit from their use. Our reversibly-binding resin technology can be readily implemented into a number of systems that at present stand to benefit tremendously from both and environmental as well as an economic standpoint.
Machining Fluids are used to lubricate and cool CNC (Computerized Numerical Control) and other metal fabrication machines. Commonly an oil/water emulsion is used to combine the lubricating benefits of the oil with the efficient heat transfer properties of water. These cutting fluids must be replaced routinely for the equipment to function properly. Although the fluids are principally composed of water, the oil fraction present, typically one to five percent, prohibits simple disposal. Because of this, hazardous waste disposal costs can significantly contribute the overall cost of operation. Our separations technology can be easily employed to remove the oil component from the cutting fluid emulsion, drastically reducing the volume of waste.
Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) is an extraction technique applied to oil wells that uses large volumes of water containing surfactant and other additives to "extract" more oil from the well than would be possible using standard practices. The advantage to this approach is that more crude oil is obtained per oil well. The down side is that the very large volumes of water used must be treated before disposal, often relying on biodegredation methods which tend to be relatively slow. The main issue with these waste-water streams is that they contain surfactants which make it difficult to remove the other additives as well as components from the oil which become dispersed in the water as a result of the surfactant content. Being able to quickly and cheaply remove the surfactant vastly simplifies waste-water treatment in this instance.
Hydraulic Fracturing is a similar technique to EOR, except that it is used to extract natural gas deposits within subsurface rock formations. In this case the purpose of the water volume is to fracture rock formation in order to release trapped gas deposits. As is the case with EOR, large volumes of water containing additives dispersed using surfactant are used. Here again, the challenge is treatment of the large volumes of waste-water generated from the process.
Phase Transfer Catalysts (PTC) are surfactant-like molecules that are used in heterogeneous chemical reaction systems to transfer ionic species such as hydroxide ions or halides into the organic phase of the reaction mixture. Quaternary ammonium and phosphonium salts are quite commonly used as PTCs. They enable a number of chemical transformations to proceed that would otherwise not occur due to poor solubility of one or more of the reactants. Large scale applications tend to be limited due the inability to effectively remove the PTC once the reaction is completed. In some cases, the catalyst must be recovered for reuse so as not to become cost prohibitive. There exist PTCs on the market today that are compatible with our reversible separations technology, making recovery and reuse a trivial matter. This opens the door to a multitude of PTC applications that were until now limited by inadequate separations capability.