New material to soak up oil spills?

April 30, 2013
An employee places a barrier following an oil spill from a pipeline, in Chinacota on December 11, 2011. Scientists said Tuesday they had manufactured a lightweight and reusable material that can absorb up to 33 times its weight in certain chemicals—a possible new tool against water pollution.

Scientists said Tuesday they had manufactured a lightweight and reusable material that can absorb up to 33 times its weight in certain chemicals—a possible new tool against water pollution.

The team made nanosheets of , also called white graphene, that were able to soak up a wide range of spilt oils, and dyes such as those discharged by the textile, paper and tannery industries.

Highly porous, the sheets have a , can float on water and are water-repellent, the team from France and Australia wrote in the journal Nature Communications.

Once the white sheets are dropped on an oil-polluted water surface "they immediately absorb the brown oil and become dark brown," they wrote.

"This process is very fast; after just 2 minutes, all oil has been taken up by the nanosheets."

Once saturated, the sheets can be easily picked up from the water surface and cleaned by burning, heating or washing to be reused several times.

Materials such as activated carbon or natural fibres commonly used to counter spills generally have a much lower absorption than their newly-created material, the authors wrote.

Other materials with high absorption have been manufactured—but proved difficult to recycle.

"The new material and related technology will have (an) important impact on environmental protection," study co-author Ian Chen of Australia's Deakin University told AFP by email.

And he added: "they are not expensive".

Nanostructured materials like white are composed of structural elements, clusters of atoms, of between one and 100 nanometres (a billionth of a metre) big.

Explore further: 'Frozen smoke:' The ultimate sponge for cleaning up oil spills

Related Stories

'Frozen smoke:' The ultimate sponge for cleaning up oil spills

February 16, 2009

Scientists in Arizona and New Jersey are reporting that aerogels, a super-lightweight solid sometimes called "frozen smoke," may serve as the ultimate sponge for capturing oil from wastewater and effectively soaking up environmental ...

'Holey' Nanosheets for Wastewater Dye Removal

July 1, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers have discovered that extremely thin sheets of nickel oxide with hexagonally shaped holes can absorb hazardous dyes from wastewater nearly as well as the best traditional methods, but are recyclable. ...

New materials invention for oil spill clean-up

January 12, 2011

The recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was not the largest in history nor will it be the last, according to T.C. (Mike) Chung, professor of materials science and engineering at Penn State. But a recent patent-pending ...

Frustration inspires new form of graphene

October 14, 2011

They're the building block of graphite – ultra-thin sheets of carbon, just one atom thick, whose discovery was lauded in 2010 with a Nobel Prize in Physics.

Nanosponges soak up oil again and again

April 16, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Researchers at Rice University and Penn State University have discovered that adding a dash of boron to carbon while creating nanotubes turns them into solid, spongy, reusable blocks that have an astounding ...

Recommended for you

Electrical circuit made of gel can repair itself

August 25, 2015

(Phys.org)—Scientists have fabricated a flexible electrical circuit that, when cut into two pieces, can repair itself and fully restore its original conductivity. The circuit is made of a new gel that possesses a combination ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.