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New surfactant. My first job in the oilpatch was as a physical chemistry lab technician in Getty Oil’s Houston research laboratory. One of my early tasks was to do the tedious testing of new surfactants supplied by chemical companies for possible use in tertiary-recovery, miscible-surfactant waterfloods. Imagine my joy when one day I placed a surfactant solution underneath the coverslip, protecting an oil drop on a microscope slide, and saw the oil streak and bleed away, as the surface tension was broken by the sulfonate surfactant compound.
A similar effect may be coming to many brownfield operations in the future through the application of some new peptide research. Dr. Anton Middelberg and Dr. Annette Dexter of the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) at the University of Queensland, Australia, have developed a switchable peptide surfactant, based on a variant of Lac21, an amphipathic peptide.
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