Report of the President – January 2012
Research Without Walls

A better dispersant
Can a new class of dispersants clean up oil spills without harmful side effects?

Vijay John, left, reviews oil samples with graduate students Jingjian Tang, center, and Pradeep Venkataraman. Cryo-scanning electron microscopy equipment allows scientists to understand the role of dispersants in breaking up oil. (Photo by Sabree Hill)

Since 2010's BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, most Americans have become familiar with the term "dispersants," chemicals used to break up oil into small droplets that can be more rapidly eaten by microbes or evaporate. Concerns have been raised, however, regarding their impact on the environment. 

A consortium of research institutions led by Tulane University is slated to receive a $10.34 million grant from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative to help develop new dispersants that more favorably balance effectiveness and toxicity in combating deep-sea drilling accidents.

The group also will study the role of dispersants and other chemical compounds in mitigating the environmental impact of deep-sea drilling accidents on the marine environment. 

"The overriding objective of the work of this consortium is to address the question, 'What needs to be done if a Deepwater Horizon-type spill happens again?'" – Vijay John, Leo S. Weil Professor of Engineering in the Tulane School of Science and Engineering
We can make the world a better place.
©2012 Office of Tulane University President Scott Cowen