Sacrificial amphiphiles: Eco-friendly chemical herders as oil spill mitigation chemicals

Crude oil spills are a major threat to marine biota and the environment. When light crude oil spills on water, it forms a thin layer that is difficult to clean by any methods of oil spill response. Under these circumstances, a special type of amphiphile termed as “chemical herder” is sprayed onto the water surrounding the spilled oil. The amphiphile forms a monomolecular layer on the water surface, reducing the air–sea surface tension and causing the oil slick to retract into a thick mass that can be burnt in situ. The current best-known chemical herders are chemically stable and nonbiodegradable, and hence remain in the marine ecosystem for years. We architect an eco-friendly, sacrificial, and effective green herder derived from the plant-based small-molecule phytol, which is abundant in the marine environment, as an alternative to the current chemical herders. Phytol consists of a regularly branched chain of isoprene units that form the hydrophobe of the amphiphile; the chain is esterified to cationic groups to form the polar group.

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