Schechter, Robert S. Ph.D.

The W. A. (Monty) Moncrief Centennial Chair in Petroleum Engineering

photo of Robert S. Schechter
Office: CPE 4.168B Mailing Address:
Phone: (512) 471-3245 The University of Texas at Austin
Fax: Department of Chemical Engineering
Email: schechter@mail.utexas.edu 200 E Dean Keeton St. Stop C0400
UT Mail: C0400 Austin, TX 78712-1589

Educational Qualifications

Ph.D., University of Minnesota (1956)

Focus

Surface phenomena, flow in porous media with reaction

Research

Microemulsions are a single-phase blend of oil and water stabilized by an appropriate surfactant (essentially soap). Because these systems have remarkable properties, such as ultralow interfacial tensions against both water and oil or the capacity to solubilize certain proteins, enzymes or impurities, they are of great practical importance. Our work relates to determining those factors that control thermodynamic stability, especially the molecular structure of the surfactant. The energy r equired to bend an interface is one of the most significant factors so we are developing models of this energy as well as devising experimental methods for their verification.
One of the most common problems encountered in industrial waste management is how to remove highly toxic yet dilute contaminants from wastewater. Existing removal techniques are expensive. Our research focuses on new methods for rem oving these impurities and we are developing a new process called micellar enhanced ultrafiltration. Fundamental to this process is the existence of surfactant aggregates (micelles) that form spontaneously when surfactants are added to water. If contamina nts in the water can be made to attach to micelles, they can be removed together with the micelles by ultrafiltration, using a membrane with pores smaller than the micelles. Current research addresses the following crucial questions: how can the partition ing of a given contaminant from the aqueous phase into the micelles be maximized? what determines the resistance of a micelle to deformation? how can the contaminant be removed from the micelles once the filtration is complete? All of these issues must be resolved in order to design a viable industrial process.
Especially interesting to me is the appearance of structures and order in geochemical systems, such as regular patterns and waves of chemical composition. These often represent valuable ore deposits or unwanted accumulations of toxi c materials; how the interactions of fluid with rock create patterns is a subject of our research. These patterns often emerge because of precipitation/ dissolution processes and we have worked out many of the essential features of those pattern-forming p rocesses whenever local equilibrium prevails. A rich area of research-the systems for which this assumption is invalid-remains.

Awards & Honors

National Academy of Engineering (1976)
Chevalier de l’ Ordre de Plames Academiques, France (1980)
Billy and Claude R. Hocott Distinguished Engineering Research Award (1984), Joe J. King Professional Engineering Achievement Award (1991)
Senior Research Award, ASEE (1991)

Selected Publications

  • “Factors controlling the hydrodynamic detachment of particles from surfaces,” J. Colloid and Interface Sci. 149(1) (1992), with M. M. Sharma, H. Chamoun, and D. S. Sarma.
  • ” A note on the transition region connecting thin-to-thick liquid films,” J. Colloid and Interface Sci. 146(1) (1991), with A. C. Lam.
  • ” Geochemical modeling of two-phase flow with interphase mass transfer,” AIChE J. 37 (11) (1991), with C. F. Novak and L. W. Lake.
  • ” Unified classical and molecular thermodynamic theory of spherical water-in-oil microemulsions,” J. Phys. Chem. 95(23) (1991), with D. G. Peck and K. P. Johnston.
  • ” The influence of chemical and electrostatic gradients on diffusion in microemulsions,” AIChE J. 37(2) (1991), with R. J. McGreevy.