Polymer-based filter successfully cleans water, recovers oil in Gulf of Mexico test

Jun 07, 2010

In response to the massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, a University of Pittsburgh engineering professor has developed a technique for separating oil from water via a cotton filter coated in a chemical polymer that blocks oil while allowing water to pass through. The researcher reports that the filter was successfully tested off the coast of Louisiana and shown to simultaneously clean water and preserve the oil.

Di Gao, an assistant professor and William Kepler Whiteford Faculty Fellow in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering in Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering, created his filter as a possible method to help manage the spreading that resulted from the April 20 explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon . Gao has submitted his idea through the Deepwater Horizon Response Web site managed by the consortium of companies and government agencies overseeing the disaster response.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Gao's filter hinges on a polymer that is both hydrophilic—it bonds with the 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.

For the massive slick off the U.S. Gulf Coast, Gao envisions large, trough-shaped filters that could be dragged through the water to capture surface oil. The oil could be recovered and stored and the filter reused. Current cleanup methods range from giant containment booms and absorbent skimmers to controlled fires and chemical dispersants with questionable effects on human health and the environment.

Explore further: LiquidPiston unveils quiet X Mini engine prototype

Provided by University of Pittsburgh

4.6 /5 (13 votes)

Related Stories

Image: Oil Slick Spreads off Gulf Coast

Apr 27, 2010

NASA's Aqua satellite captured this image of the Gulf of Mexico on April 25, 2010 using its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument.

NASA Captures Night Infrared View of Gulf Oil Spill

May 10, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A May 7 nighttime infrared image of the Gulf oil spill from an instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft provides a different perspective on the oil slick nearing the Gulf coast.

Expert: Caution required for Gulf oil spill clean-up

May 04, 2010

With millions of gallons crude oil being spewed into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the focus now is on shutting down the leak. However, in the cleanup efforts to come, "extreme caution" ...

Recommended for you

LiquidPiston unveils quiet X Mini engine prototype

13 hours ago

LiquidPiston has a new X Mini engine which is a small 70 cubic centimeter gasoline powered "prototype. This is a quiet, four-stroke engine with near-zero vibration. The company said it can bring improvements ...

Novel robotic walker helps patients regain natural gait

18 hours ago

Survivors of stroke or other neurological conditions such as spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries and Parkinson's disease often struggle with mobility. To regain their motor functions, these patients ...

Tomorrow's degradable electronics

Nov 20, 2014

When the FM frequencies are removed in Norway in 2017, all old-fashioned radios will become obsolete, leaving the biggest collection of redundant electronics ever seen – a mountain of waste weighing something ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

kevinrtrs
not rated yet Jun 08, 2010
I sincerely hope it works! Just about anything would be better than what is currently being used.
baudrunner
2 / 5 (1) Jun 08, 2010
I like the idea where the oil is frozen in the salt water but the water remains liquid. Frozen oil is very manageable and a surface skimmer, similar to ones used to clean harbors of vegetation, could be used to reclaim spilled oil.

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.