A futuristic application of nanoparticles is the 4-D detection of petroleum deposits within a reservoir, in which nanoparticles are released into an injection well and recovered at the production well. These nanoparticles would "record" the conditions of their ensemble trajectory based on their physical and/or chemical changes, which may provide a more detailed assessment of a production site. A materials challenge that impedes such developmental work is the conventional lack of colloidal and chemical stability of nanoparticles at mild temperatures (~100 C), high pressures (100 atm), and high salinities (ranging from seawater to brine). In a first step, we recently developed a processing method that successfully takes any solvent-suspended, bilayer-coated nanoparticles into high-salinity water. A breakthrough is the recognition that high-salinity conditions are conducive towards an outer bilayer coating with a high charge density, important to enhanced nanoparticle stability. In a second step, nanoparticles can be rationally designed to contain a marker molecule that leaches into oil deposits nearby which the nanoparicles travel. The synthesis and transport of carbon nanoreporters were successfully carried out to demonstrate the proof-of-concept.
J. M. Berlin, J. Yu, W. Lu, E. E. Walsh, L. L. Zhang, P. Zhang, Wei. Chen, A. T. Kan, M. S. Wong, M. B. Tomson, and J. M. Tour, "Engineered nanoparticles for hydrocarbon detection in oil-field rocks," Energy Environ. Sci., 4 (2), 505-509 (2011). DOI: 10.1039/C0EE00237B (Abstract) (Hot Article)
J. Yu, J. M. Berlin, W. Lu, L. Zhang, A. T. Kan, P. Zhang, E. E. Walsh, S. N. Work, W. Chen, J. M. Tour, M. S. Wong, and M. B. Tomson, "Transport study of nanoparticles for oilfield application," SPE 131158, 2010 SPE International Conference on Oilfield Scale, Aberdeen, UK, May 26-27, (online) DOI: 10.2118/131158-MS (Abstract)