For Academics

Projects R & D in the academic sector

Fundamental or oriented research projects, as well as development projects.

Physicochemical Formulation of Surfactant-Water-Oil Systems, Research and Development

We have cuantified the characteristic parameters of the components of a Surfactant-Water-Oil system, namely: equivalent salinity, oil ACN or EACN, surfactant parameters. We have developed methods of evaluation of these parameters and of various manipulable factors: Efects of the alcohols and of the temperature. Efects of the composition parameters. The EACN for a large number of terpene and polar oils is now available

Complex Systems – Mixtures of Surfactants – Fractionation and Segregation

This line of reseach is carried out partially in the FIRP Lab where the physicochemical phenomena of fractionation of complex surfactant mixtures in water / oil systems are studied in collaboration with the Univerity of Pau (France) and, partially, in the Laboratory of Petrochemestry and Surfactants (PS) of the Universidad del Zulia (Venezuela) where the analytical methods (HPLC-HPSEC) are studied to obtain the experimental information on the fractionation. This line of work aims to understand what happens when a mixture of surfactants is used (almost a general situation in practice), and in particular which of the surfactants dominates the interfacial composition. An especially interesting case is that of pH-sensitive systems containing carboxylic acids or amines. Recent studies are intended for mixtures of ionic and nonionic surfactants whose formulation variation with dilution can be eliminated to solve an improved oil recovery problem.

Lignins and wood extractives: characterization and recovery.

The lignin group of the FIRP Lab deals with the characterization of the black liquor of plants with cellulose pulp and with the separation and use of the lignin recovered from them. This group works collectivelly in the chemical modification of lignin with theLaboratorio de petroquimica y surfactantes (Laboratory of Petrochemicals and Surfactants) of the Universidad del Zulia and the Department of Wood of the University of North Carolina in the United States. The group has also carried out research for the pulp and paper sector in projects on the process of paper de-inking, uses of fiber retention agents in paper machines, and separation and characterization of wood extractives.

New Additives, “Lipophilic Linkers”, Extended Surfactants

Around 30 years ago we started to work with our colegues US Universities on the improvement, by means of additives, of the solubilization of oils (particularly polar ones) in microemulsions. We introduced the concept of Lipophilic Linker, and then of Extended Surfactant. Later on, we started to synthesize various types of extended surfactants, particularly with glycoside head. Now we are charecterizing the propieties of these surfactants and we are using these products in various applications involving conventional and polar oils, particularly natural oils.

Properties of Emulsions

In the last 25 years numerous projects have been developed to relate the properties of emulsions (type, stability, viscosity, drop size) with the physicochemical formulation, the composition and the agitation protocol to make them. A generalized way of representing the properties in a two-dimensional map has been found. The importance of the droplet size distribution, in particular on the viscosity of the emulsions, has been studied.

Emulsion Formation and Inversion

This resarch line is one of the most developed in the FIRP Lab. Several projects have been carried out to understand the combined effects of formulation, composition and agitation on the efficiency of the emulsification process, in particular to reduce the drop size. The characteristics of the inversion of an emulsion were defined, both in standard form and in dynamic regime, and were represented in a generalized map. The inversion was also modeled using a model based on the theory of catastrophes. In recent years, systematic studies have been carried out to understand the inversion conditions of an emulsion, finding several types of inversion and different regimes of interest for industrial applications.

Miniemulsions or Nanoemulsions – Spontaneous or Phase Transition Emulsification

The mini or nanoemulsions are emulsions, that is to say, diphasic systems, with extremely small drops, which make them often translucent and viscous. They are systems that can have potential applications in food, pharmaceuticals, paints, cutting oils, etc., and that is why they are relevant to our relationship with the industry.Miniemulsions stabilize entropically and, therefore, can be of great future interest if how to manufacture them without excessive agitation is understood. This type of emulsion is not generally prepared by brute force but by transition of phase behavior through a change of temperature or formulation, catastrophic or combined inversion, or mixed transitions of composition and formulation. The group of researchers of the FIRP Lab has been formed in this area in collaboration with research groups in Spain, Japan and France.

Rheology and Agitation of Dispersed Systems – Relationship with Formulation – Emulsified Transport

Emulsions are dispersed systems with particular rheology, whose adjustment is often of great interest for applications. In particular, we have been working in real cases since the 1980s on cause-and-effect relationships and their application to the emulsified large scale transport of heavy crudes.


The foam group of the FIRP Lab was created in the mid-eighties. Several projects have been carried out on frothing separation problems and more recently on formation and stability of foams. The FIRP Lab is now beginning to understand the effect of the physicochemical formulation on the rheology and stability of foams. The Lab continued in this direction because of the interest shown by INTEVEP, in the 90s, in using foams in the new drilling fluids. A team was developed to test foams at high pressure and high temperature.

Membranes and Membrane Processes

This group deals with methods of separation by solid, liquid or multiple emulsions membranes and by electrodialysis. In the last decade the group has been interested in the behavior of emulsions when passing over membranes and more recently in the manufacture of emulsions with membranes. It has carried out projects for their application in oil and non-oil effluent treatments, as well as in the dairy industry. It has also separated lignins from the black liquors of the paper industry.

R&D projects in the academic sector

This line of work represents one of the greatest pragmatic efforts of the FIRP Lab in the last 25 years. It has also been the main source of financing for the group’s activities, and has been associated with various services and continuing training courses. The effort has focused on:

Projects developed with oil applications

Emulsions of Heavy Crudes

Around this theme we have carried out more than 30 basic research projects for INTEVEP and other subsidiaries of PDVSA since 1980. We have worked on problems of physicochemical formulation, surfactant mixtures insensitive to temperature, activation of carboxylic acids as surfactants, formation of gels with nonionic surfactants, stabilization of emulsions, formulation and rheology of emulsions. Recently, we have worked with other transnational companies on both pipeline emulsion transportation and in the formulation of heavy fuels and emulsion residulas.


Since the 80s we have been studying the principle of dehydration of crude oil based on the concept of optimal formulation and we have published articles considered as pioneers on the subject. In the last decade our members have written 3 doctoral theses dedicated to quantifying the formulation of de-emulsifying agents to dehydrate crude. With the contribution of CITEC-ULA, we have developed an electrostatic laboratory dehydrator that allows testing demulsification formulations faster (10 min) than by the bottle test (24 h).

Asphalt Emulsions

We have carried out fundamental studies on the mechanisms of heteroflocculation of a cationic asphalt emulsion on a rocky granulate. Small companies producing asphalt emulsions have asked for our services, we have studied the physicochemistry of the cationic surfactants used in such emulsions. This line of research puts at the service of the national industry a practical experience and a fundamental competence without equivalent in Venezuela.



In the last 5 years we have started to work on superemulsions, that is, stabilized emulsions with solid particles and surfactants. There are various oil and non-oil applications, but the comprehension of these superemulsions is very poor and, at the moment, it is not possible to simultaniously foresee the influence of the formulation on the effect of the solid and of the surfactant on the properties of the emulsions, hence the work is still empirical.

Enhanced Oil Recovery ASP

This was the first line of research and development in which the members of the FIRP Lab participated in its beginnings during the years 1975-80. This line was never abandoned in the FIRP Lab despite the unfavorable economic conditions in the 1980s and 1990s. In the last decade we have returned to work more intensely in this line of research in cooperation with several companies in the oil sector in Venezuela and abroad. We even returned to do fundamental work to build know-how in the areas with difficulties.

Currently, we have 2 doctoral theses from our members dedicated to practical issues not yet solved. The first one carried out in the FIRP is a method to avoid the variation of optimal formulation when the injected fluid is diluted during its displacement in the deposit. The second thesis, carried out at the French Petroleum Institute (IFP), is on the use of systems with non-Newtonian rheology to improve the sweep after the application of the surfactant plug.

With the contribution of CITEC-ULA, we have developed a rotary drop tensiometer to measure ultra-low voltages. We currently own half dozen devices that allow us to provide a fast service to our partners.

FIRP Laboratory Treasures

With more than 40 years of research and development, we make our collection of papers and compilations available to our visitors:
  • FIRP Booklets: Teaching modules in interfacial phenomena.
  • Lab FIRP Publications: with free access for personal use.
  • Conference Presentations: classified presentation listings.
  • FIRP Super-Booklets: series of superbooks that are advanced thematic reviews written by specialists in the field.
  • FIRP Body Of Knowledge and Know-how (FIRPBOKK): expanded service of more than 2600 online referrals. Exclusive for our industrial partners.

Subscribe to the newsletter and receive full investigations for free