Each year, the oil industry spills over 1.3 million gallons of petroleum into the oceans. This catastrophic situation underlines the dire need for effective oil spill cleanup solutions. A new technology out of Argonne National Laboratory, featured in the video above, shows promise in becoming such a solution.
“The Oleo Sponge offers a set of possibilities that, as far as we know, are unprecedented.” ~ Co-inventor Seth Darling, Scientist with Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials and Fellow of the University of Chicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering
Oil Spill Cleanup Methods
Oil spills cause tremendous damage to our waterways and the ecosystem. Moreover, they usually expand over large regions, affecting many species of plants and animals. Therefore, effective and fast cleanup is essential.
Currently, there are three oil spill cleanup methods used by the industry. They are containment and skimming, using dispersants, and adding biological agents to break down the oil. Unfortunately, these current methods lack effectiveness and speed, particularly if the oil spill happens below the water’s surface. Additionally, strong water currents and winds often spread oil beyond the containment area, exacerbating the problem.
Reusable Sponge, Reusable Oil
In a recent press release, Argonne revealed a new technology, dubbed the Oleo Sponge. The foam sponge is capable of rapidly soaking up oil from the water’s surface. What makes this technology unique is its capability to recover oil that’s also underwater. Furthermore, the material used to make the sponge is very durable, and both sponge and recovered oil can be reused.
“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,” stated Seth Darling.
Argonne tested the sponge in a giant seawater tank located at the National Oil Spill Response Research & Renewable Energy Test Facility in New Jersey. The video above shows some of these tests. Consequently, the Oleo Sponge successfully collected diesel and crude oil from both below and on the water surface.
The Journal of Materials Chemistry A published the preliminary results of Argonne’s tests in a study, titled “Advanced oil sorbents using sequential infiltration synthesis.”
Argonne’s press release via the link below offers more information about this emerging technology: https://www.anl.gov/articles/argonne-invents-reusable-sponge-soaks-oil-could-revolutionize-oil-spill-and-diesel-cleanup
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