CBET #1605894

Magnetically activated chemical equilibrium and separations using recyclable magnetic surfactants and polymers

This project will develop low energy magnetically driven methods to address the growing energy demands for chemical and biological separations. The separation methods will use recyclable magnetic chemical surfactants to drive magnetically enhanced adsorption and liquid-liquid phase extractions. The project’s technology is envisioned as a magnetic controlled swing operation akin to temperature and pressure swing adsorption systems. In order to complete the research of the separation systems, the project will require the synthesis of novel small-molecule and macromolecular magnetic surfactants, along with the fundamental exploration of magnetically-aided adsorption and liquid/liquid partitioning. The project will generate key data for the manipulation of magnetic fields for low energy separations and provide a green alternative to traditional separation techniques. The project will provide project-based learning experiences graduate and undergraduate students. Additionally, the project will design and implement a mini-course for K-12 outreach to enhance STEM education through hands-on strategic thinking, engineering problem solving, and engineering economics.

Unlike the previously studied paramagnetic materials comprised of suspensions of nanometer- to micrometer-sized permanent magnets, this project’s paramagnetic materials are magnetic molecules where the “magnets” are on the molecular scale. The project will require the synthesis of three types of novel magnetically responsive species: ionic surfactants with magnetic counter ions; redox-responsive magnetic surfactants; and block copolymer amphiphiles with multiple magnetic moieties. Subsequently, the surfactant properties (e.g., critical micelle concentrations, contact angles, and surface tensions) will be characterized in response to a magnetic field. Using the designed surfactants, the research team will develop magnetically-aided adsorption and magnetically-controlled liquid/liquid partitioning processes. Each of the three magnetically responsive classes will be evaluated for chemical separations of model organic compounds such as benzene, phenol and ibuprofen, including controllable changes in thermodynamics (solubilization) and transport phenomena (micelle capture/release by turning a magnetic field on/off). The developed magnetically driven separation processes will be evaluated against current technologies for separation and energy efficiency.