Jun 112010
 

Polymer Filter for Oil Cleanup

With the damaged Deepwater Horizon oil well continuing to spew oil into the Gulf of Mexico there’s no shortage of suggestions coming from those concerned about the environmental disaster. We’ve already looked at a number of clean-up options, and now a University of Pittsburgh engineering professor has developed a technique that looks very promising. His filter for separating oil from water not only cleans the water, but also allows the oil to be recovered and stored for the use BP originally intended and the filter to be reused.

The technique created by Di Gao, an assistant professor and William Kepler Whiteford Faculty Fellow in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering in The University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, separates oil from water via a cotton filter coated in a chemical polymer that blocks oil while allowing water to pass through.

The filter hinges on a polymer that is both hydrophilic – meaning it bonds with the hydrogen molecules in water – and oleophobic – meaning that it repels oil. When the polymer is applied to an ordinary cotton filter, it allows water to pass through but not oil. The filter is produced by submerging the cotton in a liquid solution containing the polymer then drying it in an oven or in open air, Gao explained.

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