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A New Mechanism of Sediment Attachment to Oil in Turbulent Flows: Projectile Particles

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Center for Natural Resources Development and Protection, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, New Jersey 07102, United States
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland 21218, United States
§ Federated Department of Biological Sciences, New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers, Newark, New Jersey 07102, United States
Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia B2Y 4A2, Canada
*Phone: (1) 973-596-6079; e-mail: [email protected]
Cite this: Environ. Sci. Technol. 2017, 51, 19, 11020–11028
Publication Date (Web):September 6, 2017
Copyright © 2017 American Chemical Society

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    The interaction of oil and sediment in the environment determines, to a large extent, the trajectory and fate of oil. Using confocal microscope imaging techniques to obtain detailed 3D structures of oil–particle aggregates (OPAs) formed in turbulent flows, we elucidated a new mechanism of particle attachment, whereby the particles behave as projectiles penetrating the oil droplets to depths varying from ∼2 to 10 μm due to the hydrodynamic forces in the water. This mechanism results in a higher attachment of particles on oil in comparison with adsorption, as commonly assumed. The projectile hypothesis also explains the fragmentation of oil droplets with time, which occurred after long hours of mixing, leading to the formation of massive OPA clusters. Various lines of inquiry strongly suggested that protruding particles get torn from oil droplets and carry oil with them, causing the torn particles to be amphiphillic so that they contribute to the formation of massive OPAs of smaller oil droplets (<∼5–10 μm). Low particle concentration resulted in large, irregularly shaped oil blobs over time, the deformation of which without fragmentation could be due to partial coverage of the oil droplet surface by particles. The findings herein revealed a new pathway for the fate of oil in environments containing non-negligible sediment concentrations.

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    The Supporting Information is available free of charge on the ACS Publications website at DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b02032.

    • Additional details about the kaolinite particles, layout of experimental design, clipping function in the Leica Microsystem software LAS X, more 3D photomicrograph of OPAs at high particle concentration, droplet size distribution of OPAs at the four oil–particle interaction time durations, OPAs after 10-min oil–particle interaction, oil concentration, control case—oil alone, control case—oil biodegradation, and 3D photomicrographs of OPAs at low particle concentration (PDF)

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