The sponge absorbs fuel up to 30 times its weight, is magnetic and easily reusable and will help clean the seas
The oil and fuel removal from the sea is a complicated and expensive process. Often the timescales are long and cause the death of many animals and long-term environmental damage. The most widely used techniques to date consist of burning the fuel, using chemical compounds to disperse the liquid, absorbing the component from the water surface with pumps or non-recyclable materials.
A research team at Northwestern University has developed a highly porous sponge that selectively absorbs organic compounds from water. The absorption capacity is 30 times its weight. The sponge can therefore be used to clean ponds of water economically and efficiently without further damaging the ecosystem. Once the organic component is absorbed, the sponge releases the oil when squeezed and is immediately ready to be reused.
High functionality is guaranteed by a cover consisting of a magnetic nanocomposite and a carbon-based substrate. The combination makes the sponge oleophilic (attracts oils), hydrophobic (repels water) and magnetic. The research was presented on the pages of the journal Industrial Engineering and Chemical Research. The coating process can be applied to any available and economical commercial sponge. The hope is that the new technology can help limit damage in future environmental disasters.