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Scientists create a sponge to clean oil spills in sea

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Staff Writer | July 19, 2018
oil spills
Nature   The polyurethane offered a broad surface area

Argonne National Laboratory's scientists created a reusable sponge to clean up oil spills in the sea and successfully tested it on the coast of California.

The new technology is composed of common polyurethane -o f the type used for making furniture - and a technique called sequential infiltration synthesis employed to infuse metal oxides into polymeric materials.

The polyurethane offered a broad surface area to collect spilled oil and useful mechanical properties but a new surface chemistry was necessary to firmly join the molecules that absorb the fuel, stated Seth Darling, one of the inventors.

The cleaning method is simple, the sponge is immersed in water and then squeezed, the oil is collected in containers for possible reuse or safe disposal. After draining the oil, Oleo Sponge can be used again.

For the experiment, the scientists chose the Coal Oil Point filtration field on the Santa Barbara Canal near Goleta. The location remains one of the largest and best-studied areas of active marine filtration in the world.

The experts wanted to see if the Oleo Sponge could remove the surface oil layer about a micron thick that shines perpetually on the water surface. They deployed a set of sponges and they were able to successfully remove the shine of the oil from the water surface, leaving no visible traces.


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