The purpose of this work was to evaluate the efficiency of oil sorption of silica particles modified by three different types of cationic polymers and a cationic surfactant. Low-molecular-weight polyethyleneimine (LPEI), high-molecular-weight polyethyleneimine (HPEI), polydiallyldimethylammonium chloride (PDM), and cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) were used to modify the silica particles and then compared their performances for oil removal. The scanning electron microscope and zeta potential measurements were used to analyze the surface characteristics of unmodified and modified silica particles. Adsorptions of motor oil and palm oil on the modified silica particles have been investigated under various parameters such as the silica particle size, the oil concentration, the polymer/surfactant concentrations, and the pH. The results have shown that the modified silica particles enhanced the oil sorption ability by approximately 10–20 times depending on the size of silica particles, pH, and the type of polymer/surfactant used when compared with the unmodified silica particles. The highest palm oil adsorption values of LPEI-silica, HPEI-silica, PDM-silica, CTAB-silica, and unmodified silica were 2.40, 2.10, 1.95, 1.50, and 0.15 g/gsilica, respectively. Moreover, the oil sorption of the modified silica particles was increased by approximately 30–50% for the smallest-sized silica particles.


  • Cationic polymers/surfactant-modified silica particles can enhance the oil sorption by approximately 10–20 times.

  • Polymer/surfactant-modified silica can be used to remove both fresh and used oil.

  • Low molecular weight of the cationic polymer performed the outstanding oil sorption performance.

  • Oil sorption on small particles was 30–50% higher than that of the large particles.

Graphical Abstract

Graphical Abstract
Graphical Abstract
This content is only available as a PDF.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY 4.0), which permits copying, adaptation and redistribution, provided the original work is properly cited (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).