The handling and properties of heavy oils are becoming an increasingly important problem. Even though petroleum is the widest used source of fuels and it has been studied for decades, its complex nature is still an enigma in several ways. A reasonable approach to a definition of a crude oil is a colloidal fluid formed by several dispersed phases from gases (light hydrocarbons) to solids (heavy paraffins and asphaltenes). Through all these years of research, applications have been found for almost all classes of components in crude oil except for some of the solid phases such as asphaltenes. Very heavy petroleum is a non-newtonian liquid with a viscosity of ≈106 Poise, and an average molecular weight of 600 amu. The solids that are toluene soluble but heptane insoluble are called asphaltenes and are the most aromatic fraction with the highest molecular weight of unconverted petroleum. In the present work, we applied high resolution transmission electron microscopy (HREM) and energy dispersive spectrometry (EDS) in the study of asphaltenes. It was found that when the asphaltenes are well separated from the resins the sample consists of a carbon structure containing S, V, Si, related to fullerenic carbon. During observation in the microscope it was possible to see the formation of fullerenes such as onions and C240 @ C60 structures. The fact that they decomposed under further irradiation suggests that they are metastable structures. Since the heteroatoms are still present they are likely to cause instability to the structure. Not only does our result indicate the possibility of obtaining fullerenes from crude oil but it also suggests the asphaltene molecule, when it is resin free, might be a precursor of fullerenic structures.
- A. Carbon onions
- B. Graphitization
- C. Transmission electron microscopy
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Materials Science(all)