Cotton Could Serve as Cleanup Medium for Oil Spill: Researchers

May 17, 2010 by John Davis
Cotton could be a better absorbent than the oil-containment booms (pictured above) that are currently being used to absorb the oil spilling into the Gulf. Photo courtesy of Deepwater Horizon Response.

(PhysOrg.com) -- The same Texas Tech-created nonwoven cotton technology that keeps soldiers safe from chemical and biological warfare agents may also serve as the perfect sponge for sopping up oil that has polluted the Gulf of Mexico.

As oil continues to gush from the exploded Deepwater Horizon oil rig, a Texas Tech expert in nonwoven cotton technology says the “fabric of our lives” may do a better job to absorb the oil spill than the booms made of synthetic material.

“Already, several million feet of the oil-containment booms have been used to capture the oil spilling into the Gulf,” said Seshadri Ramkumar, associate professor of Nonwoven materials at The Institute of Environmental and Human Health (TIEHH). “They are made of , don’t biodegrade and absorb only a third of what raw cotton can do. The properties of raw cotton allow it to soak up 40 times its weight. With chemical modifications, it can soak up to as much as 70 times its weight. And it won’t just stay in a landfill forever.”

Ramkumar’s research focuses on developing value-added materials using nonwoven materials and nanotechnology. He supervises the Nonwoven and Laboratory at TIEHH.

He is the creator of several nonwoven cotton technologies including FibertectTM, which is used in the U.S. military’s kits. He and a small group of his graduate students are researching ways to use lower-quality cottons that don’t make apparel grade for uses such as this.

“The nonwoven industry in the United States is well equipped with technologies that can develop oil-absorbent pads from like cotton,” Ramkumar said.

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in7x
not rated yet May 18, 2010
Read about this stuff the other day researching plasma gasification for waste disposal, Rock (Mineral) Wool: http://en.wikiped...ral_wool

From "How Stuff Works"; curious why it's not mentioned anywhere else:

"Rock wool is a very efficient insulation material, twice as effective as fiberglass. It's also lighter than water, but very absorbent. Because of this, it could potentially be used to help contain and clean oil spills in the ocean. Cleanup crews could spread rock wool over and around an oil spill. The rock wool would float on the water while soaking up the oil, making collection a relatively easy process."