Researchers create ‘magic sponge’ to clean up oil spills

16th of December 2015
Researchers create ‘magic sponge’ to clean up oil spills

Australian researchers claim to have developed a new material that will revolutionise the way in which oil spills are cleaned up in the ocean.

The team from Melbourne's Deakin University has created a sponge that is designed to absorb oil separately from water.

According to study author Professor Ying Chen: "Oil spills are a global problem that wreak havoc on our aquatic ecosystems, not to mention cost billions of dollars in damage. But current methods of cleaning up oil spills are inefficient and unsophisticated while causing ongoing and expensive damage."

With the support of the Australian Research Council, the team has developed a powder with high absorption capabilities. "However you cannot simply throw powder on to oil - you need to be able to bind that powder into a sponge so that it can soak up oil and separate it from water," said Chen. The finished product is now ready to be trialled by industry.

When incorporated into a sponge, the powder - which is based on boron nitride nano-materials - is said to have a surface area around the size of five and a half tennis courts per gram. Another advantage of boron nitride is the fact that will not catch fire, according to the developers. This makes it highly suitable for transporting volatile chemicals such as oil.

Oil spills are a regular problem in Australia, both in water and on land. Oil spills from lorries can cause motorways to close for up to a day at a time which causes major inconvenience and economic losses.




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