Vlance
Posts: 63
Joined: Tue Oct 24, 2017 2:58 pm
Occupation: Student

Science Fair Project: Cleaning Up Oil Spills

Postby Vlance » Tue Oct 24, 2017 3:10 pm

Hello,
Recently I had come up with a science fair idea to clean up oil spills. After much research I found out that I can make a spray to put on the spills that is natural and better for the environment when cleaning up. When I researched this, I found that I needed Phytol, and a plant fat. I am not concerned about the plant fat as I found out from research that is just things like olive oil. My question is, is there a way to get the Phytol out of the chlorophyll? I also need to make sure that if I was able to separate this, it would not costs too much. Any leads or information is appreciated.

Thank you

ajcourtney
Former Expert
Posts: 53
Joined: Thu Apr 21, 2016 1:55 pm
Occupation: Ph.D. Student

Re: Science Fair Project: Cleaning Up Oil Spills

Postby ajcourtney » Wed Oct 25, 2017 6:02 pm

Hello Vlance,

Welcome to Science Buddies! What a great project idea! I've found some articles on extracting phytol and they are pretty complicated. If you are working with a lab, they may be able to help you apply some of these methods, but I don't think this can be done easily at home. You also may be able to purchase phytol from a chemical supplier like sigma aldrich, but again you would have to work within a lab to make sure proper safety precautions are followed.

I'm sorry that I can't be more helpful!

Good luck and maybe another expert will be along to help you further.
-AJ
-------------------------
Science Buddies science fair guide:
http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_guide_index.shtml

Science Buddies project ideas:
http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas.shtml

Vlance
Posts: 63
Joined: Tue Oct 24, 2017 2:58 pm
Occupation: Student

Re: Science Fair Project: Cleaning Up Oil Spills

Postby Vlance » Wed Oct 25, 2017 7:00 pm

Hi Aj,
Thank you for the information! I was wondering if you think I could find a lab to help me with this project for free? Last year I did a project with water and the lab tests cost lots of money. I was wondering if you know any labs I could contact in Massachusetts that might be willing to help? Also if any one else has any tips I would love to hear them!

Thanks again!
Vlance

SciB
Expert
Posts: 1854
Joined: Fri Feb 01, 2013 7:00 am
Occupation: Retired molecular biologist, university researcher and teacher

Re: Science Fair Project: Cleaning Up Oil Spills

Postby SciB » Thu Oct 26, 2017 8:21 pm

Hi Vlance,

I read your post and thought maybe I can make some suggestions. Working in a research lab is a great way for you to do a project but from the lab manager's point of view it is often too costly for such a short term. It can't hurt to try, however. Do a literature search in your area of interest and see if there are any researchers near you that sound like they might be interested in oil spill remediation.

At the same time, assuming that finding a research lab that will take you on is problematic, it is a good idea to plan experiments for your school lab or home lab. Do you have a school lab to work in? Doing your experiments there could save the expense of buying equipment and reagents.

I wasn't familiar with using phytol-based oil slick thickeners so looked it up:

http://www.conservationmagazine.org/201 ... l-cleanup/

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovati ... 180955815/

http://www.audubon.org/news/watch-biode ... -spilt-oil

It sounds like phytol has a lot of potential as a biodegradable oil slick remover to replace the silicone-based chemical 'herder' that is currently being used to clean up an oil spill. The question is where can you get phytol. First off i wanted to know exactly what 'phytol' referred to so here's the wiki info:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytol

This showed what the phytol molecule looks like--a diterpene with an alcohol OH--but did not tell how to make it from some natural source such as chlorophyll. If you look up the structure of chlorophyll (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlorophyll) you see the phytol chain sticking out from the chlorin-magnesium complex so really all you need to do is split that part off and you have phytol. This splitting of the phytol from the porphyrin ring is known as hydrolysis and can occur in the presence of dilute acid, but first you need to obtain chlorophyll from some plant material. You can extract chlorophyll from spinach leaves by grinding them in acetone but you have to be careful with this chemical because it is toxic. Do some searching online for the methods of chlorophyll extraction:

https://www.google.com/search?ei=C5_yWc ... Xp0AlcAX74

This is about all I could find so far. I think your project is doable without costing too much. You can create an oil slick in a large tray and then test the phytol extract for its ability to consolidate the oil so it is easier to remove. There are some details to work out but I think we can help you with that.

Good luck!

Sybee

Vlance
Posts: 63
Joined: Tue Oct 24, 2017 2:58 pm
Occupation: Student

Re: Science Fair Project: Cleaning Up Oil Spills

Postby Vlance » Fri Oct 27, 2017 1:26 pm

Hi SciB,
Thank you so much! This information is really going to help my project! I just wanted to ask you that when I’m simulating the oil spill if I light it on fire it once I put the spray on? This is what my research had told me to do, but I wanted to ask you if this seemed correct.

Thanks so much,
Vlance

SciB
Expert
Posts: 1854
Joined: Fri Feb 01, 2013 7:00 am
Occupation: Retired molecular biologist, university researcher and teacher

Re: Science Fair Project: Cleaning Up Oil Spills

Postby SciB » Fri Oct 27, 2017 5:59 pm

Hi Vlance,

From what I have read about treating oil spills it is preferable to use a pump and a hose to suck the oil into a holding tank and dispose of it safely without further polluting the environment.

If you burn the oil the combustion products will put a lot of smelly, probably toxic black smoke into the air along with carbon dioxide which will further promote human-caused atmospheric warming.

Get a small water pump and test it first to make sure it will work with oily water. If you really wanna do it right you could get an RC model ship and put the pump on that then after you apply the phytol, maneuver the ship near the oil spill and turn on the pump--no more oil!

Good luck!

Sybee

Vlance
Posts: 63
Joined: Tue Oct 24, 2017 2:58 pm
Occupation: Student

Re: Science Fair Project: Cleaning Up Oil Spills

Postby Vlance » Sat Oct 28, 2017 9:02 am

Hi SciB,
I am still a little confused about what your saying. So the spray will help break down the oil and then I put a RC model in? Will the boat moving around in the oily water have the oil disappear? Also wouldn’t the water pump just suck up all the water and oil not making the spray the effective part? Your information is helping me a lot, and I just want to make sure that I am understanding everything properly. Thank you so much!

-Vlance

SciB
Expert
Posts: 1854
Joined: Fri Feb 01, 2013 7:00 am
Occupation: Retired molecular biologist, university researcher and teacher

Re: Science Fair Project: Cleaning Up Oil Spills

Postby SciB » Sat Oct 28, 2017 6:04 pm

Sorry about the confusing part--I was visualizing a model of how I think the oil could be gelled and collected rather than burned. You are right that a pump would probably not suck up just the oil, but I still like the RC ship idea for the visual interest. Burning the oil would be dramatic but I have a feeling your science fair coordinator would nix that idea as against fire code regulations.

I did a search for using surfactants or what the jargon calls chemical 'herders' to congeal the oil but all the sites I saw burned the oil after it gelled. Your project could really be important if you can figure out a practical, reasonably inexpensive but effective way of pumping or scooping up the congealed oil after phytol treatment so that it doesn't have to be burned and pollute the air.

I really have no idea how thick the resulting gelled oil is--do you know? There are gear-driven pumps that will move very thick oil but I don't know if they would work with yours: https://utahbiodieselsupply.com/goldstreampump.php

Oil skimmers physically collect oil from oils spills on ocean or fresh water. Afterwards the oil can be recovered and does not need to be burned: http://www.oilspillprevention.org/oil-s ... t/skimmers

I don't know if a skimmer could be used to collect congealed oil. Try to find out.

I think you have the makings of a great science project! Think about alternatives to burning the oil spill and see if you can come up with a way to collect the phytol-treated oil. People who clean up oil slicks should be interested in such a method because it eliminates the problems of burning and allows them to recover the oil in a usable form. Sounds like a win-win to me. Don't hesitate to call companies that make oil pumps, skimmers or collectors and ask them for recommendations. They like new ideas because it can mean more money in their pockets so they will talk to you, but you have to be able to explain your method very clearly and use the correct jargon.

Good luck!

Sybee

Vlance
Posts: 63
Joined: Tue Oct 24, 2017 2:58 pm
Occupation: Student

Re: Science Fair Project: Cleaning Up Oil Spills

Postby Vlance » Sun Oct 29, 2017 6:33 am

Hi SciB,
I was thinking about what you said for getting the oil out after it has congealed from the spray. Do you think peat moss would work? I was reasearching and it says that peat moss only collects oil and not water. Do you think this would work because it is a inexpensive material and can collect the oil?

Thanks again,
Vlance

SciB
Expert
Posts: 1854
Joined: Fri Feb 01, 2013 7:00 am
Occupation: Retired molecular biologist, university researcher and teacher

Re: Science Fair Project: Cleaning Up Oil Spills

Postby SciB » Sun Oct 29, 2017 4:27 pm

Why don't you try it? Make an oil slick and put some peat moss on it then do it again using phytol first and see how it works. I know peat moss is very absorbent so it might suck up the oil on its own. The phytol might congeal the oil so much that the peat moss won't be able to absorb it. And then, how will you harvest the peat from the water? These are all questions that you need answers to before you can make a hypothesis.

If you think about real-world conditions, how would the oil-slick workers collect the oil-soaked peat? And would they be able to recover oil from it? As an inventor of a new process, you need to think about every detail from start to finish and come up with a plan that would meet every objection. Burning the oil is simple and costs nothing, so that appeals to people who don't care about carbon pollution. On the other hand, collecting the oil in such a way that it can be recovered and sold means extra money and that would be a plus.

Did you figure out a way to obtain phytol that doesn't use hazardous chemicals or cost too much? You need to extract some and try it right away to see if it will make oil gel or else your project is done. It's time to do some prelim experiments and get some real information instead of speculation. Post and let us know what happens.

Sybee

Vlance
Posts: 63
Joined: Tue Oct 24, 2017 2:58 pm
Occupation: Student

Acid Hydrolysis

Postby Vlance » Thu Jan 11, 2018 3:32 pm

Hi everyone,
For my project I need to extract phytol from spinach leaves. I know that I need to do acid hydrolysis but I don't know how. I have looked all over for a procedure to do acid hydrolysis but I can't find one, and I was hoping someone might know how or have a link that could help me.

Thanks,
Vlance

Moderator note: Hi Vlance, you will notice that I merged this post with your other posts. Please keep these together so the experts who have been helping you will see that you have posted a follow-up question. Thank you and good luck with your project.

Vlance
Posts: 63
Joined: Tue Oct 24, 2017 2:58 pm
Occupation: Student

Acid Hydrolysis

Postby Vlance » Fri Jan 12, 2018 2:52 pm

Hi everyone,
For my science experiment I need to extract phytol from spinach, and to do that I need to perform acid hydrolysis. I have looked all over the internet to find a procedure on how to perform acid hydrolysis, but have come up empty handed. I was hoping someone could give me a link to a website that would describe the procedure.

Thanks,
Vlance

SciB
Expert
Posts: 1854
Joined: Fri Feb 01, 2013 7:00 am
Occupation: Retired molecular biologist, university researcher and teacher

Re: Science Fair Project: Cleaning Up Oil Spills

Postby SciB » Fri Jan 12, 2018 7:56 pm

Hi Vlance,

I'm glad to see you are still working on this project. My last post was in October 2017 and I would not have seen this one if the moderator had not moved it to your old thread. That is why everyone needs to keep all their posts together.

In one of my previous posts, I included all the information that I found on acid hydrolysis of chlorophyll. There was one paper from 1962 that discusses it but it is in the Journal of Organic Chemistry and I do not have access to that one.

Several papers talk about acid hydrolysis and show reactions in which it splits the phytol from the chlorophyll, but I have not seen any specific methods which gives the type of acid used, the concentration, temperature and length of treatment. A couple of websites talked about the color change that chlorophyll undergoes when exposed to acid and heat http://homeguides.sfgate.com/plant-pigm ... 00250.html

The bright green of the chlorophyll turns to a dull brownish green when the chlorophyll is hydrolyzed, so you could use the color change as an indicator of hydrolysis. You could try using vinegar or lemon juice at a temperature of 45C to hydrolyze the chlorophyll using the color change as the endpoint.

Did you plan to try and separate the phytol from the rest of the chlorophyll molecule? It would be easier to just use the acid hydrolyzate after neutralizing it with sodium bicarbonate.

Let me know what you want to do and if you have more questions.

Sybee

cumulonimbus
Former Expert
Posts: 102
Joined: Thu Aug 17, 2017 9:23 am
Occupation: Student

Re: Acid Hydrolysis

Postby cumulonimbus » Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:11 am

Hi,

I found a link to a similar science buddies topic that might be helpful: viewtopic.php?t=18324

It seems that treating something (in your case the spinach) with a dilute acid will allow acid hydrolysis to occur. Any other expert input would be great.

I hope this helps! Sorry that I couldn't find a more specific procedure for your experiment. :(

Elena

Vlance
Posts: 63
Joined: Tue Oct 24, 2017 2:58 pm
Occupation: Student

Acid Hydrolysis

Postby Vlance » Thu Jan 18, 2018 5:11 pm

Hi everyone,
For my project I need to do acid hydrolysis to get phytol out of spinach leaves, but I find myself not knowing how to do this. I have looked online but can't find a straight forward procedure on to do the acid hydrolysis. Can anyone send me a link or describe how to do the acid hydrolysis?

Thanks,
Vlance
Last edited by Vlance on Thu Jan 18, 2018 8:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.


Return to “Grades 6-8: Life, Earth, and Social Sciences”