The material not only easily absorbs oil from water, but is also reusable and can pull dispersed oil from the entire water column—not just the surface.
When the Deepwater Horizon drilling pipe blew out seven years ago, beginning the worst oil spill in U.S. history, those in charge of the recovery discovered a new wrinkle: the millions of gallons of oil bubbling from the sea floor weren’t all collecting on the surface where it could be skimmed or burned. Some of it was forming a plume and drifting through the ocean under the surface.
Now, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have invented a new foam, called Oleo Sponge, that addresses this problem. The material not only easily absorbs oil from water, but is also reusable and can pull dispersed oil from the entire water column—not just the surface.
“The Oleo Sponge offers a set of possibilities that, as far as we know, are unprecedented,” said co-inventor Seth Darling, a scientist with Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials and a fellow of the University of Chicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering.
We already have a library of molecules that can grab oil, but the problem is how to get them into a useful structure and bind them there permanently.
The scientists started out with common polyurethane foam, used in everything from furniture cushions to home insulation. This foam has lots of nooks and crannies, like an English muffin, which could provide ample surface area to grab oil; but they needed to give the foam a new surface chemistry in order to firmly attach the oil-loving molecules.
Previously, Darling and fellow Argonne chemist Jeff Elam had developed a technique called sequential infiltration synthesis, or SIS, which can be used to infuse hard metal oxide atoms within complicated nanostructures.
After some trial and error, they found a way to adapt the technique to grow an extremely thin layer of metal oxide “primer” near the foam’s interior surfaces. This serves as the perfect glue for attaching the oil-loving molecules, which are deposited in a second step; they hold onto the metal oxide layer with one end and reach out to grab oil molecules with the other.
The result is Oleo Sponge, a block of foam that easily adsorbs oil from the water. The material, which looks a bit like an outdoor seat cushion, can be wrung out to be reused—and the oil itself recovered.
At tests at a giant seawater tank in New Jersey called Ohmsett, the National Oil Spill Response Research & Renewable Energy Test Facility, the Oleo Sponge successfully collected diesel and crude oil from both below and on the water surface.
“The material is extremely sturdy. We’ve run dozens to hundreds of tests, wringing it out each time, and we have yet to see it break down at all,” Darling said.
Oleo Sponge could potentially also be used routinely to clean harbors and ports, where diesel and oil tend to accumulate from ship traffic, said John Harvey, a business development executive with Argonne’s Technology Development and Commercialization division.
Elam, Darling and the rest of the team are continuing to develop the technology.
“The technique offers enormous flexibility, and can be adapted to other types of cleanup besides oil in seawater. You could attach a different molecule to grab any specific substance you need,” Elam said.
The team is actively looking to commercialize the material, Harvey said; those interested in licensing the technology or collaborating with the laboratory on further development may contact [email protected].
Argonne scientists Anil Mane, Joseph Libera and postdoctoral researcher Edward Barry also contributed to the development of the Oleo Sponge. Preliminary results were published in a study in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A, titled “Advanced oil sorbents using sequential infiltration synthesis.”
Receive an email update when we add a new OIL SPILL CLEANUP article.
The Latest on: Oil spill cleanup
via Google News
The Latest on: Oil spill cleanup
- 630 gallons of crude oil spilled in Tabbs Bayon February 2, 2020 at 10:05 pm
but on Sunday clarified that it was crude oil that spilled. The source of the spill has been secured and the area has been contained, officials said. Crews are using 200 feet of boom to collect crude ...
- Pipeline spill of oil wastewater bigger than first reportedon February 1, 2020 at 8:06 am
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A pipeline spill of oilfield wastewater in northwestern North Dakota has affected more cropland than originally reported. State environmental scientist Bill Suess said regulators ...
- Esquimalt’s expenses for ongoing oil-spill cleanup top $50,000on February 1, 2020 at 5:00 am
Esquimalt has already spent more than $50,000 cleaning up an oil spill that contaminated sensitive ecosystems in Gorge Creek, says the township’s director of engineering and public works. Jeff Miller ...
- 30 years ago, miles of O.C. beaches were fouled by a devastating oil spillon January 31, 2020 at 3:31 pm
The oil killed fish and about 3,400 birds. The cleanup was completed on April 3. The spill wasn’t nearly as big as the 11 million gallons spilled by the Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound, Alaska, ...
- Oil Spillson January 31, 2020 at 9:08 am
claiming he violated the Clean Water Act by failing to update the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan with a final ruling on dispersal of harmful oil spill cleanup ...
- Louisiana, Alaska fishers sue EPA over health problems from dispersant in oil spill cleanupon January 30, 2020 at 5:47 pm
Fishers who experienced health problems after the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon oil spills are among those who filed suit Thursday against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, urging it to ...
- Brazilians mobilize to clean up massive mysterious oil spill and end the fossil fuel eraon January 30, 2020 at 12:45 pm
A major oil spill, coming from a mysterious source in the South Atlantic Ocean ... together with civil society organizations, volunteered to clean up the oil mess. “The government took over 40 days to ...
- Lawsuit would force EPA to update plan for oil spillson January 30, 2020 at 12:11 pm
Want access to the top energy and environment news? Sign up for a free trial! Enter your email to register or log in. By signing up, you agree to receive E&E News email updates and offers. You also ...
- Terminal Operator Nabs $3M Jury Award Over LA Oil Spillon January 29, 2020 at 1:32 pm
was liable for an oil spill that happened when valves were left open overnight and allegedly necessitated a multi-month, $6 million cleanup. A jury on Monday found that CMAC was negligent and that it ...
via Bing News