Using a small pipet and a steady hand, ETE scientist Annemerel Mol puts a droplet of a whitish sulfur suspension in a liquid-filled Quartz cuvette. In slow motion, the sample fans out in a fantastic cloudy swirl; science can be amazingly beautiful. After mixing with a small metal device, Mol places the cuvette in her brand-new laser diffraction particle size analyzer. Within a minute, the particle size distribution of the sulfur suspension is analyzed and shown on the computer screen (fig.1).
The new machine is an irreplaceable tool for Mol. Her research is closely linked to the Thiopaq O&G Ultra, where bacteria convert hydrogen sulfide (H2S), present in natural gas, into pure sulfur particles. ‘The industry wants these particles to be as large as possible, so they can be harvested more easily’, she says. ‘My research focuses on the conditions that may increase the size of these sulfur particles.’ Some of these factors may be linked to reactor conditions, like the ratio H2S – oxygen. But also, the composition of the bacterial population may influence sulfur particle size. The particle analyzer gives Mol reliable and hard data on the sulfur particle size in different samples from the Thiopaq O&G Ultra. Mol: ‘I’m extremely happy with this machine, I couldn’t do my research without it!’