Jeffrey Harwell

George Lynn Cross Professor  

Almost all my research concerns surfactants and colloid science; much of it is directly related to applications. I am very interested in seeing people use what I have discovered or developed. Consequently, the importance of surfactants and colloid science in many different industrial applications involves me in a variety of technologies.

My research ranges from applied areas such as enhanced oil recovery (chemical flooding), environmental remediation (in-situ ground water remediation) or consumer products, to basic areas such as microemulsion theory and surfactant precipitation, which support the large number of industries that utilize surfactants. Current work includes a focus on specific ion effects in the formation of microemulsions, and how to capture these effects in the design process. All these topics are connected through the importance of surfactants in controlling interfacial properties in engineering systems.

I have ongoing efforts in enhanced oil recovery, which involve both the use of viscoelastic emulsions and in situ generation of carbon dioxide. A current focus of our work with surfactants in enhanced oil recovery is the minimization of surfactant adsorption on reservoir minerals using nanoparticles to reduce the chemical potential of the surfactants. The surfactant system is designed to release from the nanoparticles in the presence of the target reservoir oil. I have several industry partners in this research.

I work frequently with surfactant manufacturers and consumer products companies, especially in applications of microemulsions in the design and optimization of a variety of consumer products. A special area of emphasis in my work is the application of critical scaling theory to the design of microemulsions for specific application-critical properties and relating this to the structure of the surfactant molecules.