soffan02.jpg

The research in our group Surface and Colloid Engineering is focused on the following two main areas; Biomaterials and Metal chelation.

 
Biomaterials

Wood is a fantastic material that can be processed into a variety of products. For instance, cellulose is the most abundant renewable material on earth and will play an important role in our quest for replacing synthetic oil-based products. Examples of applications include cellulose-based textiles and nonwoven, novel composite materials with added functionalities, and polymeric cellulose formulations and dispersions.

New materials from cellulose

We need a much better scientific understanding of the intermolecular interactions in the crystalline and amorphous parts of the cellulose, as well as for the interactions between cellulose and solvent. The most important difference to synthetic polymers is the low mobility of the cellulose chains caused by strong intermolecular interactions. It is important to understand the balance between the hydrophilic and lipophilic properties of the cellulose, as well as how the solvent conditions affect the state of the cellulose. We believe that an increased knowledge in this area will make it possible to increase the utilization of wood-based cellulose in textiles and functionalized composite materials, similar to the synthetic polymers, but renewable, non-toxic and CO2 neutral.

Metal chelation

Metal chelators are molecules with inherent functionality to capture and bind specific metal ions. We are working with both chemicals and materials with these outspoken properties. The dual functionality of designed chelating surfactants offers possibilities to recover formed metal complexes that can be further treated to regenerate the chelating surfactant and recover the metals. Functionalized solid materials can be used in filter applications to selectively remove metal ions that for different reasons are unwanted in water solutions.

Chelating surfactants

The combination of surface active and chelating properties in a single molecule results in a chelating surfactant. These are water soluble molecules suitable for chelation in most aqueous systems. By separating the metal complexes from industrial water, release of chelating agents and metals can be prevented. Besides the traditional areas of use for chelating agents, the separable functionality offers new application areas. The concept can be used to recover valuable metals for example from metal finishing industry, or to purify metal contaminated water or soil. Chelating surfactants may also be utilized in consumer products where a combination of chelating agents and surfactants are traditionally used. The nonpolar part makes the structure suitable in hydrophobic matrices, such as cosmetic creams and lotions.

The metal complexes are easily separated and recovered from water phases by for example foam flotation. In the flotation process, gas is bubbled through the liquid and surface active materials adsorb at the air-water interfaces. The recovery is enhanced by adding a foaming agent and the phase transfer of metal ions from the bulk to the foam depends on the foaming ability of the system as well as on the interactions between the chelating surfactant and the foaming agent. These interactions are investigated by calculating interaction parameters for the systems.

The collected foam from the flotation contains the metal complexes. This foam phase is further treated by electrolysis to separate and regenerate the chelating surfactant and the metals.

Besides the technical aspects, chelating surfactants are interesting from a fundamental scientific point of view. As surfactants, they are rather extreme with their large, multiply chargeable and pH-responsive headgroups. In the presence of metal ions chelating surfactants form coordination complexes, sometimes referred to as metallosurfactants. The critical packing parameter and hydrophobicity can be tuned by varying the pH, ionic strength, and valence of the counterion. The adsorption at the air-water interface is examined by surface tension measurements and neutron reflectivity. The micellization in the bulk phase is studied using NMR diffusometry and pH measurements.

Metal chelating materials

Porous solids of inorganic and biomaterials can be designed into efficient metal chelators by chemical or physical functionalization, for instance to be used in filter applications. We are designing and investigating materials that can capture cations and oxyanions of heavy metals specifically.

More information

Ongoing Research Projects