, 14:1239
Date: 30 Oct 2012

Viscoelastic gels of guar and xanthan gum mixtures provide long-term stabilization of iron micro- and nanoparticles

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Abstract

Iron micro- and nanoparticles used for groundwater remediation and medical applications are prone to fast aggregation and sedimentation. Diluted single biopolymer water solutions of guar gum (GG) or xanthan gum (XG) can stabilize these particles for few hours providing steric repulsion and by increasing the viscosity of the suspension. The goal of the study is to demonstrate that amending GG solutions with small amounts of XG (XG/GG weight ratio 1:19; 3 g/L of total biopolymer concentration) can significantly improve the capability of the biopolymer to stabilize highly concentrated iron micro- and nanoparticle suspensions. The synergistic effect between GG and XG generates a viscoelastic gel that can maintain 20 g/L iron particles suspended for over 24 h. This is attributed to (i) an increase in the static viscosity, (ii) a combined polymer structure the yield stress of which contrasts the downward stress exerted by the iron particles, and (iii) the adsorption of the polymers to the iron surface having an anchoring effect on the particles. The XG/GG viscoelastic gel is characterized by a marked shear thinning behavior. This property, coupled with the low biopolymer concentration, determines small viscosity values at high shear rates, facilitating the injection in porous media. Furthermore, the thermosensitivity of the soft elastic polymeric network promotes higher stability and longer storage times at low temperatures and rapid decrease of viscosity at higher temperatures. This feature can be exploited in order to improve the flowability and the delivery of the suspensions to the target as well as to effectively tune and control the release of the iron particles.